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C. F. G. M^TERMAN, M.A. 


" We cannot but acknowledge that nut are not yet at rest : nor 
can ive believe ive have yet enjoyed or seen enough to accomplish 
the ends of God." 





(All rights reserved.) 




essays in this book represent an effort made in 
_ a time of tranquillity, to estimate forces which are 
making for change. Some are attempts to examine the 
ideals of the age immediately past, as one by one the 
voices of the nineteenth century have sunk into silence. 
Some deal with the life of the present, endeavouring to 
reflect some immediate impression of the panorama of 
life as it passes by. And some are concerned with the 
future, seeking to interpret, in literature, in religion, in 
social ideals, those obscure beginnings which are to 
direct the progress of the years to come. 

In every case I have been less interested in the 
manner of saying than in the thing said. Literature 
has only been called in to pronounce its verdict upon 
the business of life. It is this business of life, the 
experience of a hurrying present, which is the one 
absorbing question : the actual high effort, apathy or 
despair crowded into that interval when to-morrow is 
becoming yesterday. To some the procession passes 
as a pageant, to others as a masquerade, to others again 
as a funeral march with the sound of solemn music. 
But to all in that moment a world has perished, a world 
been born. 



If the note is in general sombre, with the sadness 
of things more emphatic than their splendour, I can 
only plead an experience more than usually complex 
and baffling, spent in communication less with the 
triumphs of civilisation tlian with its failures. 

Expectancy and surprise are the notes of the age. 
Expectancy belongs by nature to a time balanced 
uneasily between two great periods of change. On the 
one hand is a past still showing faint survivals of 
vitality ; on the other is the future but hardly coming 
to birth. The years as they pass still appear as years 
of preparation, a time of waiting rather than a time 
of action. Surprise, again, is probably the first im- 
pression of all who look on, detached from the 
eager traffic of man. The spectator sees him per- 
forming the same antics in the same grave fashion 
as in all the past: heaping up wealth which another 
shall inherit, following pleasure which turns to dust 
in the mouth, and the end weariness : thinking, as 
always, that he will endure for ever, and calling after 
his own name the place which shall know him no more. 
But surprise passes into astonishment in confronting 
the particular and special features of the age. Here is 
a civilisation becoming ever more divorced from Nature 
and the ancient sanities, protesting through its literature 
a kind of cosmic weariness. Society which had started 
on its mechanical advance and the aggrandisement of 
material goods with the buoyancy of an impetuous life 
confronts a poverty which it can neither ameliorate nor 
destroy, and an organised discontent which may yet 
prove the end of the Western civilisation. Faith in 
the invisible seems dying, and faith in the visible is 
proving inadequate to the hunger of the soul. The 
city state, concentrated in such a centre as London, 



remains as meaningless and as impossible to co-ordinate 
with any theory of spiritual purposes as the law of 
gravitation itself. 

Experience in the heart of such a universe of neces- 
sity takes upon itself a character of bewilderment. 
Those whom I loved have died : and the miracle of 
their parting has seemed more strange than the miracle 
of their presence. I have seen so many sunsets, so 
many radiant dawns. This man has failed and that 
succeeded, and both have grown tired of it all. "What 
right have I to grieve," as Thoreau said, "who have 
not ceased to wonder?" 

And I think that I am not alone in longing for a time 
when literature will once more be concerned with life, 
and politics with the welfare of the people : and religion 
fall back again upon reality : and pity and laughter 
return into the common ways of men. 







J. HENRY SHORTHOUSE . . . . .45 

HENRY SIDGWICK . . . . . .51 


GEORGE GISSING . . . . . .68 



DOLLING . . . . . 115 

BEFORE THE DAWN: . . , .145 

JUNE IN ENGLAND . . . . 147 














" Yea, if no morning must behold 
Man, other than were they now cold, 
And other deeds than past deeds done, 
Nor" any near or far-off sun 
Salute him risen and sunlike-souled, 
Free, boundless, fearless, perfect, one, 

Let man's world die like worlds of old, 
And here in heaven's sight only be 
The sole sun on the worldless sea." 



LITERATUEE as detached as is the literature 
of to-day from the middle and working classes, 
the unconscious rulers of England, would appear to he 
independent of the actual processes of political and social 
change. A few vigorous story-tellers, a group of writers 
of pleasant verse, some young and clever journalists, 
will initiate a literary "movement"; which will take 
itself seriously, parade a pomp and circumstance, and 
continue until the respectabilities of advancing age, and 
often, alas ! the revelations of a failing inspiration, have 
once again demonstrated the triumph of time and change. 
Yet this emphasis of aloofness is not the whole truth. 
Literature, indeed, has no direct concern with the dust 
of the party struggle, with bills of licensing or local 
government. But the larger transitions of the period, 
the spirit which underlies some definite upheaval, whose 
appearance in the world of action astonishes the un- 
thinking, is certain to find itself first articulate in the 
universe of art. Estimate in that universe a vital move- 
ment of revolt from some accepted tradition or ideal; 
you will be estimating a force which in no long time is 
destined to enter into the play of outward affairs and to 
mould the courses of the world. 

No better example could be advanced than the history 


of the Reaction in the later years of the nineteenth 
century. Weary of the long effort of reform, a little 
bored by the strenuousness of the appeal to disinterested 
causes, conscious of the possession of unparalleled means 
of enjoyment, and of great possessions, the nation was 
evidently prepared for a new spirit, a new inspiration. 
That spirit and inspiration came with the Reaction ; 
whose literature some fifteen years ago revealed the 
only confident and secure proclamation of any kind 
of definite appeal. As the former enthusiasms subsided 
and the former systems were found unsatisfying ; as, in 
a word, the new England disentangled itself from the 
old ; so the message proclaimed by a few men of genius, 
and diffused through a thousand obscure channels in 
Press and platform, became suddenly arresting : and 
now stands crystallised as the product characteristic of 
those extraordinary years. 

The contrast was glaring between the literature of the 
earlier Victorian era and the literature of the closing 
days. The old had been cosmopolitan. The new was 
Imperial. The old had proclaimed the glory of the 
" one imperishable cause," allied through all lands ; 
the struggle for liberty against the accumulated atheisms 
of a dozen centuries. The new was frankly Tory ; with 
the Tory scoffing at the futilities of freedom, described 
now as a squalid uprising of the discontented against 
their masters. The old had been " Liberal " ; in that 
wide definition including such extremes as a Browning 
and a Tennyson. The new branded Liberalism as but 
a gigantic fraud by which the weak deluded the strong 
into an abnegation of their natural domination. The 
old had been humanitarian ; preaching, if with a some- 
what thick voice, yet with a sanguine air, the coming of 
the golden age. War would be abandoned as irrational. 



A free and universal trade would bind the nations into one 
brotherhood. The sweet reasonableness of the English 
character would shine forth its radiance through all 
the envious nations of the world. The new had no such 
hopes or dreams. It revolted always against the domina- 
tion of the bourgeois. It estimated commerce as a means 
of conflict and a weapon of offence. It clamoured for the 
ancient Barbarism ; and delighted in war ; and would 
spread an English civilisation, not by the diffusion of 
its ideas but by the destruction of its enemies. It was 
a message of vigour and revolt congruous to a nation 
wearied of the drabness of its uniform successes ; with 
the dissatisfaction and vague restlessness which come 
both to individuals and communities after long periods 
of order and tranquillity. To the friends of progress the 
dominance of such a spirit seemed of the elements of 
tragedy. Literature, after its long alliance with the 
party of reform, had deliberately deserted to the enemy. 
In the minds of the few faithful the dismay was some- 
what similar to that aroused in the defenders of the 
inviolate city, when the Shekinah departed from the 
courts of the temple and passed over to the camp of its 

This new spirit of the Reaction gathered itself 
especially round two men, each possessing more than 
a touch of genius Mr. W. E. Henley and Mr. Budyard 
Kipling. Mr. Henley's denunciation of the accepted 
codes of life, the thirst for blood and violence of one 
physically debarred from adventure, became reflected in 
a hundred eager followers, who plied the axe and 
hammer of sneer and gibe round the humanitarian 
ideal and the house of the good citizen. Mr. Kipling's 
proclamation of the Imperial race co-operating with God 
in the bloody destruction of alien peoples was interpreted 



into the commonplaces of a journalism demanding above 
all things sensation. The toiler of the cities in his life 
of grey monotony, labouring for another's wealth, found 
existence suddenly slashed with crimson. And every 
morning the astonished clerk was exalted by the intelli- 
gence of his devastation of Afghanistan, or civilisation 
of Zanzibar, or slaughter of ten thousand fantastic 
Dervishes in a night and a day. 

It was a literature of the security of a confident 
triumph; with that quality which distinguishes the 
work of a dawn from the work of a declining day. 
Its appeal was to enduring elements of human emotion. 
It proclaimed the supremacy of England, a mother, 
worth dying and living for; her children seeking 
danger as a bride, searching all the confines of the 
world; encountering and joyfully mastering enemies 
and natural forces, the winds and the seas and the 
terrors of elemental things. There were visions of ships 
steering through deep waters and harvests gathered 
from all seas ; of the pioneers whose bones have marked 
the track for the advancing army that this might follow 
where these had trod ; of the flag of England descried 
amid mist and cold or under the Southern sun as every- 
where triumphant by the testimony of all the winds of 
heaven. It was a literature of intoxication ; adequate 
to a nation which, having conquered the world in a fit of 
absence of mind, had suddenly become conscious of the 
splendour of its achievement. Small wonder that to 
the eyes of the men of the time there came with it 
something of the force of a gospel ; as the boundaries of 
their thought lifted to disclose larger horizons than they 
had ever known. 

It was a literature, on the other hand, of a rather 
forced ferocity; of an academic enthusiasm for the 



noise and trappings of war; the work of men who 
despised death because there was present in their 
minds, not death as a reality but only death as an 
idea. It preached a boastful insularity ; with a whole- 
hearted contempt for disloyal Ireland or the cretins of 
the continent. The Briton was revealed to himself, a 
majestic figure, lord of the earth, who, with the approba- 
tion of God, but by the power of his own right arm, had 
gotten himself the victory. It presented a figure of the 
Imperial race, like Nietzsche's Overman, trampling over 
the ineffective, crushing opposing nations, boasting an 
iron supremacy, administering an iron justice. It 
thought scorn of all the ideals of philanthropy of the 
middle classes, with their timidities and reticence and 
dull routine ; of the poor with the clumsiness of their 
ineffectual squalor. " More chops, bloody ones with 
gristle," so a critic has summed up in Mr. Kipling's 
own words, his demand from life. It neglected and 
despised the ancient pieties of an older England, the 
little isle set in its silver sea. Greatness became big- 
ness ; specific national feeling parochial. Imperial 
Destiny replaced national well-being ; and men were 
no longer asked to pursue the "iust" course, but to 
approve the "inevitable." 

The thing lasted only so long as it could keep 
divorced from real things and confined to its world 
of illusion. While British wars consisted of battues of 
blacks, with the minimum of loss and pain to ourselves, 
the falsity of the atmosphere of Mr. Kipling's battle tales 
was undiscoverable. The blind and gibbering maniac at 
the end of " The Light that Failed," who shrieks, 
"Give 'em Hell, men, oh, give 'em Hell," from the 
security of an armoured train, while his companions 
annihilate their enemies by pressing the button of 



a machine gun, seemed not only a possible but even 
a reputable figure. The sport of such " good hunting " 
" the lordliest life on earth " was not recounted by 
the historian of the hunted, the tribes of the hills whose 
land was laid desolate and wells choked up and palm- 
trees cut down and villages destroyed, who were joyfully 
butchered to make an Imperial holiday. Their verdict 
upon such "hunting" might have been less exuberant. 
As Newman said in his defence of Catholics in England, 
"Lions would have fared better, had lions been the 

With the outbreak of real war and some apprehension 
of its meaning the spell snapped. Directly Mr. Kipling 
commenced to write of the actual conflict in South 
Africa, the note suddenly jarred and rang false. His 
judgment was found to be concerned not with war but 
with the idea of war ; the conception in the brain of a 
journalist. The jauntiness and cocksureness, the surface 
swagger, were suddenly confronted with realities ; 
Death and Loss and Longing. " There was a good 
killing at Paardeberg; the first satisfactory killing of 
the whole war " ; this attitude immediately disclosed 
its essential vulgarity; a grimace from the teeth out- 
wards ; war as viewed from Capel Court or Whitechapel, 
or any other place where men are noisy and impotent. 
Heal war gave indeed a revelation of high sacrifice, the 
coming of the " fire of Prometheus " into the common 
ways of men; flaming up under the stress of a vast 
upheaval in the conflict of life and of death. It was not 
given to the Apostles of the New Imperialism to estimate 
or even to understand those deeper tides of the human 
soul. Their conception was of war carried on in the 
spirit of the music-hall comedy ; the men at the close of 
the struggle wiping their hands which have successfully 



gouged out the eyes of their enemies, while they hum the 
latest popular song. It was left for another poet of a 
different spirit, Mr. Henry Newbolt, to voice the common- 
place of an unchanging tragedy in the only memorable 
verse called forth by this three years' struggle. 

With the coming of a war which it had so furiously 
demanded, the literature of the Eeaction fell, first into 
shrillness, then into silence. Read to-day, the whole 
thing stands remote and fantastic, the child of a time 
infinitely far away. Of its authors, some are dead ; and 
some continue a strange shadowy life in an alien time. 
Mr. Kipling compiles such mournful productions as 
" Traffics and Discoveries." But the pipe fails to 
awaken any responsive echoes. Even those who before 
had approved now turn away their heads. He appears 
like one dancing and grimacing in the midst of the 
set grave faces of a silent company. And so of the 
others. Mr. Street, one of the briskest of the disciples 
who once were young, contributes long letters on Tariff 
Reform to the columns of the Times. They suggest 
nothing so much as the return from beyond the grave 
of the tenuous phantoms of the Greek heroes. The 
spectacle is not without its pathos. We have not 
changed, these writers may complain. Here is the 
same music which you once approved, which once 
moved you clumsily to caper in the market place. 
What has caused the charm suddenly to cease ? 

It has ceased is the reply because your world of 
phantasy has been judged and condemned by real 
things ; because with that judgment a new Spirit is 
dawning in England. 

This new Spirit should make its first appearance in 


literature. And the question immediately arises: can 
we estimate to-day anything confident and vital which 
can be interpreted as the work of the pioneers, the 
Spring of a Summer to be? 

We shall find, I think, on examination two classes of 
such writings. The first is of those who growing up 
under the spirit and dominance of the Reaction, have 
yet refused to give it their allegiance ; a Literature of 
protest coloured by a sense of isolation from the ideals 
of its age. The second is of those developing when 
that dominance is passing away, and who exhibit there- 
fore all the security and triumph which comes from the 
conviction of a winning cause. 

Of the first, the most noteworthy name is of one who 
has always stood apart and alone, whose verse is 
everywhere conscious of a popular indifference and 
estrangement. The work of Mr. William Watson will 
be judged in the future with that of Mr. Rudyard 
Kipling as representing a conflict of ideas which go 
down to the basis of man's being. The very methods 
reflect the diversified ideals. The one is detached, 
elusive, cold ; standing apart upon the height ; content 
in a serenity and a fastidious taste in words. The 
other is coloured, barbaric, human ; tumid and rhetori- 
cal; moving and rejoicing in the every-day world; 
vital, appealing and alive. The one "magnificently 
unperturbed," preaches always a vehement, if austere, 
virtue ; judging the present by the ancient traditions of 
an older time, by a past consecration of effort and 
sympathy in disinterested service. The other beats 
with the emotion of a crowd ; from the midst of which, 
and as its voice, he directs men's gaze towards an 
illimitable future. 

And the changes of the time could be no better 


illustrated than in the comparison of two appeals. 
In "The Purple East," contrasted with "The Seven 
Seas," the divergence is manifest hetween one who 
is speaking the mind of a nation and one ohviously 
heyond its sympathies. Mr. Watson demanded with 
the violence of despair that England should accept the 
obligations of her deliberate responsibility, and embark 
in the spirit of the crusaders upon the vindication of 
an unchanging justice. And the note of a baffling 
indifference and defeat is over all the volume. Mr. 
Kipling sang of the glories and the greatness of an 
Empire swollen into one-eighth of the habitable world 
and splashed around the seven seas ; and every line of 
his vigorous verse seems punctuated with the applause 
of invisible multitudes. 

Ten years after appear two other volumes, almost 
contemporaneous. The time has changed. The 
wheel has come full circle. In " For England " there 
breathes through every page the consciousness of vindi- 
cation, an appeal to a judgment which even now has 
proclaimed an honourable acquittal. In " The Five 
Nations" the rhetoric has passed into bombast; an 
audience slipping away or turning their backs is every- 
where apparent. The sneers at^E.difference, the heaped- 
up insults upon "fools" and "oafs," the jibes and 
abuse hurled upon a nation which will not rise to the 
new gospel, stamp upon the whole mournful volume the 
consciousness of failure. In the one is the jealousy of 
the discarded favourite : 

"And ye vaunted your fathomless power and ye flaunted 

your iron pride, 

Ere ye fawned on the younger nations for the men who 
could shoot and ride. 


Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented 

your soul 
With the flannelcd fools at the wicket and the muddied 

oafs at the goal." 

In the other is the dignity of confidence secure in an 
ultimate verdict which is independent of man's 
applause : 

" Friend, call me what you will : no jot care I : 
I that shall stand for England till I die. 

* * * * 

The England from whose side I have not swerved ; 
The immortal England whom I, too, have served, 
Accounting her all living lands above, 
In Justice, and in Mercy, and hi Love." 

With the passing of the bitter days we may hope 
for an increased consciousness of sympathy with an 
England immortal and secure, restored to sanity and 
desirable life after the fever of its dreams. 

Next to the work of this isolated figure you may turn 
to the work of a school. One original inspiration has 
survived through all the clamorous days, in that 
particular literature of Ireland which has disdained the 
noise of the Reaction. That literature boasts many men 
and women of rare and delicate talent : one, Mr. George 
Russell, of a real if remote genius ; and one, Mr. "W. B. 
Yeats, with the power of a universal appeal. 

Mr. Yeats stands for the genius of the Celt; not 
unmixed, indeed, with a mysticism culled from other 
sources ; but more than any other individual writer now 
representing the soul of a nation. He is the outstand- 
ing figure in a literary movement which is one of the 
few vital things in the world of to-day. The movement 



is the child of a Nationalism which is the antithesis 
of Imperialism, whose scene is set in one of the great 
tragic failures of the world. From the heart of that 
failure, from a race as it would seem visibly dying 
in its own land, Mr. Yeats and his comrades pro- 
claimed their judgment of the forces to which has been 
given domination. This " progress," with its noise 
and bustle, its material opulence, its destruction of 
all old and beautiful and quiet things, stand ever- 
lastingly condemned by one whose first search is for 
the Hose of an undying beauty, whose concern is 
only with the ardours and hungers of the soul. He 
looks out upon the tumult and the shouting, the noise 
and splendour of passing things. He learns that 
Tenderness, Compassion, Humility, those white- winged 
angels of healing, find no place in this hot and heavy 
air. He stands aside, an apostle of defeat ; of defeat 
yet triumphant in its fall ; deliberately proclaiming 
allegiance to the vanquished cause. " They went out 
to battle but they always fell " is written over all this 
haunting and musical verse, this haunting and appealing 
prose. And into the old legends, mingled of dreams and 
shadows, from twilights and dim dawns, the mystery 
and the sadness of moving waters and hidden places, 
the wind among the reeds, the rose-leaves falling in the 
garden, he has woven, with something of the quality of 
magic, all the sorrow of an elegy over a doomed and 
passing race. 

Beauty and the love of beauty, the old things, 
visions in the sunset, dreams by the fire light, are 
passing from the world. The note of that passing and 
of the judgment of the destructive forces enters into a 
kind of exultant rejection of a civilisation which carries 
even in its victory the seeds of decay; which has 



received its heart's desire and leanness in the soul. 
Here is the defiance of one who notes that all the noise 
and triumph of his conquerors will one day also become 
ashes and a little dust. 

So the dominant note of the work of his attractive, 
wayward genius is this sadness and appeal. All the 
soul's longing turns from the call of the wind and 
shadowy waters, from a world ravaged by change and 
time, to the "Land of the ever young," and the "Land 
of Heart's Desire." " It is time now to go into the 
glens," he can say with Don-nacha'Ban, " for gloom is 
falling on the mountains and mists shroud the hills," 
" There is enough evil in the crying of wind " ; " For 
the world's more full of weeping than you can under- 
stand " : so runs the record of ruin and pain : 

"We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore, 
The grey cairn on the hill when day sinks drowned in dew, 
Being weary of the world's Empires bow down to you. " 

Weariness of the world's Empires ; the " vanity of 
Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire " ; a defiant 
estrangement from all the courses of the world, become 
visibly flat, stale and unprofitable, are written over all this 
literature of protest and sorrow. Beauty passes as a 
dream ; and " we and the labouring world are passing 
by " ; and the consolation chiefly rests in the knowledge 
that one day all will have gone, good and evil, man's 
laughter and his tears, the yearning which can never 
be satisfied. "God's wars" will end, not in victory, 
but in silence. 

" And when at last defeated in His wars, 
They have gone down under the same white stars, 
We shall no longer hear the little cry 
Of our sad hearts, that may not live nor die." 


In his later work, indeed, Mr. Yeats has proclaimed a 
real Eastern Nihilism. He sings the triumph of Death 
and nothingness. Du Bellay's " Le Grandeur du 
Rien " is set up as the consummation of all things. 
And the soul rejoices that even "Le Grand tout " into 
which " all other things pass and lose themselves " is 
" some time itself to perish and pass away." In that 
remarkable play, "Where there is Nothing," which 
perplexed the inhabitants of Kensington on its perform- 
ance and provided food for the humours of the dramatic 
critics, there is an almost passionate expression of this 
hatred of " making things," this hunger for the primi- 
tive abyss and void. Paul Ruttledge, the hero, is a 
kind of wild Tolstoy preaching the return, not to nature, 
but to nothingness. He seeks satisfaction first in the 
escape from the artificiality of society to life with the 
tinkers on the open road ; later in the asceticism of the 
monastery ; and then again to the simplicities of the 
ruined abbey and bare subsistence from day to day. 
His followers who have been attracted by his preaching 
totally misunderstand this new gospel of despair, and 
are found planning to build up again all which he has 
destroyed. In the passage, which forms the climax of 
the play, the apostle of Nihilism proclaims his faith : 

" Oh ! yes, I understand, you would weave them 
together like this (weaves the osiers in and out), you 
would add one thing to another, laws and money and 
Church and bells, till you had got everything back 
again that you had escaped from. But it is my business 
to tear things asunder like this (tears pieces from the 
basket), and this, and this " 

" At last," he cries, in the crypt of the church, " we 
must put out the light of the Sun and of the Moon, and 
all the light of the World and the World itself. We 



must destroy the World ; we must destroy everything 
that has Law and Number, for where there is nothing, 
there is God." 

Yet at other times this assertion of the ultimate 
triumph of cold and darkness gives place to a hope 
that the weak things of the world may even at the 
end overcome the strong; and Beauty and Romance 
and the old Desires of the heart and the Vision 
of far spiritual horizons return again into the ways 
of men. " The movement of thought," Mr. Yeats 
proclaims, " which has made the good citizen, or has 
been made by him, has surrounded us with comfort and 
safety and with vulgarity and insincerity. One finds 
alike its energy and its weariness in churches which have 
substituted a system of morals for spiritual ardour, in 
pictures which have substituted conventionally pretty 
faces for the disquieting revelations of sincerity, in 
poets who have set the praises of those things good 
citizens think praiseworthy above a dangerous delight 
in beauty for the sake of beauty." 

But while the old is crumbling the new is building. 
Sometimes the hope is triumphant that " the golden 
age is to come again and men's hearts and the weather 
to grow gentle, as time fades into eternity " ; and at 
times a confidence awakens in the coming of "a 
change, which, begun in our time or not for centuries, 
will one day make all lands holy lands again." 

Mr. Yeats, in part as the expression of a national 
movement, more, perhaps, through the compelling force 
of his talent, has attained even under the uncongenial 
skies of the Reaction some recognition of his sincerity 
and power. An English author, Mr. H. W. Nevinson, 
no less individual and arresting, and far less remote 



from ideals definitely English, has waited longer for 
acceptance. Like Mr. Yeats, he belongs to a period of 
protest protest against a dominant spirit whose de- 
parture seemed far distant. This protest has taken 
varied forms. He has translated into literature the 
appeal of the poor against the cruel indifference and, 
perhaps, more cruel " charity " of the rich. He has 
voiced the protest of the little nations with their 
particular civilisations against an Imperialism which 
rolls as a Juggernaut car, guided by sightless eyes, 
not deliberately but clumsily, over all their variegated 
lives. He has set up for judgment by the ancient, way- 
ward things of man's existence, its high ardours, its 
delight in the charged spirit of emotion, love and 
battle and the open road, a civilisation spreading its 
by-laws and decencies over all the broken lands, 
and estimating its progress by its expenditure upon 
sanitation and the dimensions of its public lavatories. 
Against such "progress" he has appealed always for 
those elements of transfiguring flame by which alone 
man apprehends something of life and its purposes. 
Behind " the set grey life and apathetic end," he has 
discerned the flare of the fires of Prometheus. Beneath 
the noise of the cities he can hear the pipe of Pan 
among the reeds. In the midst of experience, set in 
custom and routine, he can exalt the moments, rare and 
imperishable, in which the " pent-up spirit " breaks 
through into Eternity. 

Mr. Nevinson is a child of Shrewsbury and Oxford, of 
both of which he has written with that love for particular 
places which is the essence of the spirit of patriotism. 
He has lived in a block-dwelling; and from that life 
came the writing of " Neighbours of Ours," the best 
volume of tales which ever took as their theatre of 

17 c 


action the desolate and fascinating region of the "East 
End." The contrast between the Reaction and the 
newer spirit is conspicuous in the comparison of Mr. 
Nevinson's stories of the life of the poor with the 
fruitful crop of pictures of slum life the mean street, 
the Jago, " Badalia Herodsfoot " or " 'Liza of Lambeth " 
which developed under the inspiration of that insistent 
tyranny. The cleverness, the essential ignorance of 
the journalist who prowls through the streets of poverty 
as he would prowl through the interior of China seeking 
copy; with the same eye for picturesque effect and 
the same contempt for its peoples, splashing on the 
canvas his hard yellows and purples is revealed in 
its insolence by the work of one who has lived in sym- 
pathy and comradeship with those who have failed. 
Mr. Nevinson's stories notably the " St. George of 
Eochester " and " Father Christmas " may be com- 
mended to all who would understand the meaning of 
tenderness and a man's compassion for the men and 
women and children who are trampled under in the 
modern struggle, the crowd whose acquiescence is more 
tragical than its despair. 

From the homes of poverty Mr. Nevinson passed into 
the larger world ; to see cities and men ; and everywhere 
the strong triumphant and the weak suffering. He was 
present at the pitiful comedy of the thirty days' war in 
Greece ; present also at the more pitiful tragedy of the 
destruction of two free nations in South Africa amid 
the heroism of the one side and the other. From these 
and the lessons learnt in them, from the " things seen " 
in the great moments of life and the quiet interludes 
*' Between the Acts," he has collected those volumes 
of impression and appeal which have revealed his power 
in literature. 



Two elements mingle in all his work. The one is 
pagan, the plea of Pan, the protest of the " Savage 
Soul." It is life passion protesting against the cramp- 
ing boundaries of convention and dead things. The 
other is Pity, learnt by the older gods in the watching 
of the human tragedy through so many hurrying cen- 
turies ; pity for all who find themselves with the few 
against the many, crushed by the clumsiness and violence 
of the world. The one thing which appears to him 
intolerable is the rotting at ease. The one tragedy is 
the burning out of high emotion into a little heap of 
ashes. " To grow fat and foul in clubs and country- 
houses," is the nightmare of one of his characters, " till 
I slime away in the funeral of an elderly country gentle- 
man who had been in the army once." Against this 
vision of the faint-hearted he exalts the company of the 
warrior saints. "Life piled on life were all too little 
for the unquenchable passion of my eyes." The praises 
of a mechanical civilisation leave him cold. " To set 
two bulging, flat-footed gentlemen," is his verdict, " to 
stand on a flagstone instead of one, seems an unworthy 
aim for Evolution after all its labours." 

Pan is not dead. He but waits, a little contemptuous 
of it all till the tyranny be overpast. Even in the 
heart of tranquillity and rational order he can still be 
found disguised : a wanderer : abiding his time and sure 
of his ultimate triumph. 

He appears in Greece, his old home, with all the 
pageant of an unchallenged beauty, hill and heather, 
and violet sea. He is found again by the ancient wall 
across Britain marking the boundaries of another 
Empire which once thought itself immortal. His 
laughter startles the Cathedral close as he mocks the 
anger of the Canon against his servant, Elizabeth, for 



her transgression with her soldier-lover. He is present 
with the new knowledge of pity upon the war-scarred 
slopes of Waggon Hill above Ladysmith in the clear 
night after the storm of men and elements, watching 
over the bodies of the dead. 

The contrast between this vision on the hillside, the 
mingled sorrow and rejoicing over the body of a dead 
peasant, with any of Mr. Kipling's latest tales, " The 
Captive," or, " Private Capper," will reveal the meaning 
of a change. All the music-hall song and cleverness 
have vanished from the horizon of this poor sightless 
body. Not in this lies its greatness : but in that 
Divine Fire which entered into the heart of him as he 
moved through the slow routine of his toil, and drove 
him out here from his dear home into the battle in 
passionate response to the call of the Fatherland : and 
has left him here at evening, with all the story told ; 
the dust gathering on his lips, silent in the summer 

The author will re-echo the protest of Pan against 
the plaint of the priest at man's seeming wickedness. 
Surveying the long course of history, he will testify 
with something approaching awe to an endurance and 
indomitable will which raises him above the level of the 
older gods. There is a passage in this testimony not 
unworthy to be placed with Lamennais's " Hymn of the 
Dead," or Stevenson's awful vision in " Pulvis et 

" They appear and are gone. Like shipwrecked boys 
they are cast upon the shoals of time, and drop off into 
darkness. No research of history, no deciphering of 
village tombs can ever recover them. We think that 
somewhere they may still lie nestled up, with all their 
age about them ; but even darkness holds them no more, 



They stood on this flying earth, we see their footsteps, 
we hear the thin ghost of their voices, and on the stones 
lies the touch of their dead hands, but they are nowhere 
to be found at all. They knew how short their dear life 
was, yet they filled it with labour and unrecorded toil. 
Morning and night, through their little space of minutes, 
they struggled and agonised to keep on living and feed 
their children for the struggle and agony of a few 
minutes more. The sun blasted them, ice devoured 
their flesh, their mouths were mad with thirst, hunger 
twisted them with cramps, plague consumed them, they 
rotted as they stood, bolts of torture drove through 
their brains, their bodies were clamped into hoops ; in 
battle, in child-bed they died with extremity of pain. 
Yet they endured, and into the chinks and loopholes 
of their misery they crammed laughter and beauty and 
a passion transfiguring them beyond the semblance of 
the gods." 

'Tis a sombre picture ; yet not without its triumph. 
" Let us leave it to the priests to marvel at men's 
wickedness," he cries at the end. " Over any such 
thing as love or laughter in the heart of man I could 
stand astonished with admiration throughout the life- 
time of a god." 

The work of these writers is written, in Mr. Watson's 
phrase, "in estrangement." Over all is the conscious- 
ness of battle upon a losing side. They have kept the 
faith in a dark hour when all the world seemed against 
them. The tumult swept past them. They stood alone, 
alien in spirit from the company : from the noisy rout, 
which seemed the procession of an unending day. With 
the visible passing of all this clamour has come the 
growth of a newer spirit, with an ardour and buoyancy 



lacking in those who suffered from its domination. 
Such is the spirit of those younger writers who first 
have apprehended that the Reaction, instead of being 
living and dominant, was become at heart dead and 
sterile. Of such, two of the most vigorous to-day are 
Mr. Hilaire Belloc and Mr. Gilbert Chesterton. 

Mr. Belloc has produced work which is excellent 
in itself and more excellent in its promise of better 
things to come. He exhibits especially two qualities 
always rare in English writing the quality of rhetoric 
and the quality of irony. His earlier works, studies 
of the Revolution, Danton and Robespierre, are full of 
the triumph of human personality over the influences 
of outward things. His work, like the architecture of 
that Middle Age which he loves so ardently, reveals 
the union of this spirit of romance with the spirit 
of laughter. The high roofs and spires are mingled 
with the gargoyles and grotesques, and all the humour 
and aspiration which gave its life to the greatest 
century which the world has ever seen. He will pass 
from the record of romance to the roaring satire of 
"Dr. Caliban," or collaboration with Mr. Chesterton 
in the ridiculing of the Tariff Reform Commission. 
High spirits and a kind of elemental energy are charac- 
teristic of all his work. No present-day writing conveys 
so much the impression of a huge enjoyment in its prepa- 
ration. Much of Mr. Belloc' s humour is indeed recondite, 
written to please himself and for the few who will under- 
stand ; the decent citizen but becomes conscious that 
some one is laughing at him as indignant he hurries by. 

In " The Path to Rome," the most popular of all his 
books, this vitality is everywhere present. Youth, its 
sincerity, its self-sufficiency, its vigour and hope and 
enormous dreams, is present in all this record of pil- 



grimage. As the traveller swings out from Toul in the 
sunset by the Nancy gate and strikes in a bee-line 
across the backbone of Europe to the goal of his 
wandering, he pours out all his experience of outer and 
inner things. He makes up songs, and sings them as 
he journeys, in dispraise of heretics or praise of God. 
He finds companionship in the common people, the 
people of the road, the people of the villages, away 
from the dust of the cities. He apprehends "the solid 
form of Europe under him like a rock " ; unchanged 
and permanent, beside which all the noise of progress 
appears but vaporous and transitory. 

In the story of "Emmanuel Bui-den," Mr. Belloc's 
ironical method has attained its clearest expression. 
The elaborate satire penetrates every page ; from the 
pompous parody of the title, through the nonsense of 
the preface, to the Burden genealogies designed in the 
futile exactitude of the three-volume biography. To 
nine out of ten, reading, as they think, a dull and 
straightforward narrative, all this will appear very 
tedious. But in the underlying spirit there is a 
marked and momentous change from the spirit of the 
social satire of fifteen years ago. The literature of 
the Reaction found the subject of all its humours in the 
middle-class tradesman. It was never tired of mocking 
at his outlook, his contempt for art and literature and 
all ideas, his confinement within the grooves of sectarian- 
ism and the making of money. To these clever young 
men Mr. Grundy, the husband of the dictator of the 
suburbs, was the subject of an unfailing ridicule. They 
pelted him with epigram. They caricatured his decen- 
cies and devotions. They rolled the poor old gentleman 
in the gutter and departed laughing hugely at their own 
smartness and his bleats of indignation, 



With Mr. Belloc the process is reversed. Satire has 
come over to the other side. Over against the new 
wits, the cleverness engaged in the intervals of self- 
indulgence in running (or ruining) an Empire ; with its 
surface sparkle and its inner emptiness and frivolity, 
Mr. Grundy with his tenacity, his simplicity, his austere 
devotion to duty, appears as an entirely reputable figure. 
Mr. Burden is Mr. Grundy, the "honest man and good 
citizen," ironmonger of Thames Street. In his side 
whiskers and frock-coat, as depicted by Mr. Chesterton, 
with his impossible mid- Victorian residence at Avon- 
more, Alexandrovna Road, Upper Norwood, with his 
forty years' daily devotion to his trade, "his home, 
manner and habit of life seemed to me who knew him 
to be always England, England." " To see him open 
his umbrella was to comprehend England from the 
Reform Bill to Home Rule." 

Against this old and passing England, the England 
which had built up the great heritage of Empire, Mr. 
Belloc exhibits the dismal crowd who have entered into 
that goodwill and seems determined upon its destruc- 
tion. Here are the children of the old, mocking at the 
limitations of their fathers ; cosmopolitan financiers of 
Semitic origin, exploiting, ostensibly, remote marshes, 
in reality the British public, under the sonorous clap- 
trap of "Empire Expansion"; broken down relics of 
the feudal system compelled to re-establish their shat- 
tered fortunes ; the new yellow journalism ; and the 
rank and file of greedy persons of all classes who 
rushed into the flotation, as clergymen and society ladies 
and respectable country gentlemen rushed into the 
gigantic gambling in South Africans which preceded 
the Jameson Raid. These are the figures which fill 
the foreground of the flotation of the M'Korio Delta 



Development Co. Experience of the bitter food of those 
astonishing nineties in England, the Hooley scandals, 
the Liberator, the Chartered Company, Whitaker Wright, 
are woven into a satire in which the restraint of 
the irony scarcely veils the passionate protest against 
all this new corruption of a nation marching down 
calamitous ways. 

In such a morass of foulness Mr. Burden is engulfed. 
He finds himself immediately in the toils, surrounded 
by vague forces of evil. There is nothing definite. 
The outline moves. As soon as he strikes out, the 
walls, which seemed to be closing around him, part 
aside and elude his blows. The business is of a kind 
to which he is unaccustomed. The suavity and plausi- 
bility of his confederates are equal to all his approaches. 
There is a spirit in the air, in the public Press, around 
the office of the company, a miasma which poisons the 
blood and turns the balance of the brain. Although 
the shares still stand high and there is outward pros- 
perity, the conviction deepens that he is in the grasp of 
unclean forces. He is troubled in the daytime with a 
haunting sense of shame, at night by monstrous dreams. 
The attempt of his colleagues to " freeze out " his 
friend, Mr. Abbott (another absurd, early- Victorian 
figure), who had refused to " come in," produces a 
climax. The poor, bewildered mind breaks under the 
strain. Mr. Burden, feeling actually in the presence 
of a crowd, " the massed forces of this new world 
surging against him," in one great scene of fury de- 
nounces all his fellow-directors as rogues and thieves 
and scum, and reels home to Upper Norwood to die. 
The death scene is not inadequate to life's perpetual 
irony. On the one hand is the outward, pitiful and 
grotesque incident : a stout old man, muttering gibberish, 



being put to bed by the knife-boy and the cook. On the 
other is the inward grandeur, Death and his armies and 
majesty visibly present in this suburban villa, and 
present also the three great Angels, " the Design and 
the Justice and the Mercy of God." 

The M'Korio flourishes. Mr. I. Z. Barnett, who is 
chief promoter, becomes Lord Lambeth. The shares 
rise. But away in a remote suburb they have buried 
Emmanuel Burden, Merchant, of Thames Street and 
Upper Norwood (for whom, one is relieved to hear, Mr. 
Belloc "has no fears at the Judgment seat"); and 
with him they have buried the older England. 

This remarkable work in some sense gathers up all 
the threads of remonstrance into one deliberate im- 
peachment of the spirit of the Reaction ; the fine fruits 
of that "Imperialism" which ran like a species of 
fluid madness through the veins of England during the 
late disastrous years. Memorable in itself, it is more 
memorable as a kind of pioneer of the revolt which 
is essaying a return to sanity, and the broken tradition 
of reform. 

The rise of Mr. Chesterton in the public estimate has 
exhibited the most sudden growth of all recent repu- 
tations. While still on the right side of thirty, he 
leapt into a position of which older men might well 
be envious. His early work, " Greybeards at Play," 
a volume of fantastic verse, " The Wild Knight," 
serious poetry of remarkable originality and power, 
" The Defendant," a collection of paradoxical essays, 
revealed only to the few the presence of a new 
writer and a new method. His life of "Browning," 
however, both in its merit and its definite challenge, 
evoked a universal testimony that here was something 



which, whether you liked it or not, was henceforth to be 
reckoned with in literature. Since then have followed 
" Twelve Types," and " Watts," and a novel, once 
again of daring originality, " The Napoleon of Netting 
Hill " a parable of the perpetual survival of the spirit 
of patriotism, however mystical and irrational, against 
all the forces of ridicule and common sense. The 
output continues of an astonishing fertility in daily and 
weekly and monthly magazines. It is these outpour- 
ings of himself, stripped of all reticence, which have 
earned for Mr. Chesterton the bulk of his fame. He 
loves the very breath of controversy. Open any news- 
paper interested in the things for which he cares : you 
will have a good chance of finding Mr. Chesterton in the 
midst of a lively argument against a host of opponents, 
with a calm confidence in his Tightness, an unfailing 
good temper, a boisterous delight in the shrewd blows 
given and taken. You will find him simultaneously 
protesting against Dr. Clifford conducting a campaign 
against Romanism under the guise of an attack upon 
the Education Acts ; explaining to Mr. Blatchford and 
Mr. McCabe the impossibility of Agnosticism, and his 
envy of their simple belief; or expounding to an 
audience inarticulate with wrath the necessity of 
desiring Russia's success in the war against Japan. 

Beneath all there is no mere love of paradox or 
intellectual agility, but a very definite philosophy of 
life. As the attitude of Mr. Yeats was one of protest, 
so that of Mr. Chesterton is one of acceptance. The 
denial of life, the longing of a fatigued age for nothing- 
ness and the great Void, is to him a fundamental atheism 
and blasphemy. Not "where there is nothing," but 
"where there is anything," there "is God." He is a 
mystic and an optimist, entirely satisfied, as he swaggers 



down Fleet Street, that all things are very good. With 
Whitman he can protest, " No array of terms can 
express how much at peace I am about God." To 
many this boisterous content appears as an offence 
and irreverence. To such he appears of those who are 
too readily at ease in Zion. To others this revolt from 
the denials of life has come with something of the nature 
of an inspiration. 

He is all for acceptance of the things that are, and 
the revelation through these of the things that endure. 
In all experience the present becomes a transfigured 
past ; to the few only, as to this writer, that transfigura- 
tion has been immediately accomplished. He has no 
controversy with the results of modern progress, the 
city, in slum or suburb. As wild and flaming meanings 
call to him from beneath that dull surface as any appeal 
in ancient forest or the voices of the mountains and the 
sea. The great city he finds as something " wild and 
obvious." The "casual omnibus" wears "the primal 
colours of a fairy ship." The lights in the dark " begin 
to glow like innumerable goblin eyes." Bermondsey is 
decked with fairy bubbles for gas-lamps and haunted 
with Presences of good and evil. The door-knockers of 
Clapham, as he gazes at them, writhe into strange shapes, 
the fat, red, polished pillar-boxes shout their mystical 
meaning to the skies. Hardly a hair's breadth below 
the cellars of Kensington flare the ancient elemental 
fires. He is intoxicated by the " towering and tropical 
visions of things as they are," the " gigantic daisies, the 
heaven -consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of 
strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of 
dust like the wreck of temples, and thistledown like the 
ruin of stars." Day by day the seeing eye beholds God 
renewing his ancient rapture. The wild Knight in his 



quest, hearing "the crumbling creeds, like cliffs washed 
down by water, change and pass," finds " all these things 
as nothing"; confident that the turn of the road will 
reveal the goal of all his wandering. 

11 So with the wan waste grasses on my spear, 
I ride for ever seeking after God. 
My hair grows whiter than my thistle plume, 
And all my limbs are loose ; but in my eyes 
The star of an unconquerable praise ; 
For in my soul one hope for ever sings, 
That at the next white corner of a road 
My eyes may look on Him." 

To one inspired by such visions all the spirit of the 
Reaction is summed up in the tremendous picture of 
Watts's " Mammon." The vision is not Mammon or 
Commerce, but " something intangible behind," a ruling 
element in modern life. Here is " the blind and asinine 
appetite for mere power " ; symbolised in " the all- 
destroying God and king adorned with the ears of an 
ass, declaring that he was royal, imperial, irresistible, 
and, when all is said, imbecile." 

" This is something which in spirit and in essence I 
have seen before," he proclaims, " something which in 
spirit and in essence I have seen everywhere. That 
bloated, unconscious face, so heavy, so violent, so wicked, 
so innocent, have I not seen it at street corners, in 
billiard rooms, in saloon bars, laying down the law 
about Chartered shares, or gaping at jokes about 
women ? Those huge and smashing limbs, so weighty, 
so silly, so powerless, and yet so powerful, have I not 
seen them in the pompous movements, the morbid 
health of the prosperous in the great cities? The 
hard, straight pillars of that throne, have I not seen 



them in the hard, straight, hideous tiers of modern 
warehouses and factories? That tawny and sulky 
smoke, have I not seen it going up to heaven from all 
the cities of the coming world ? This is no trifling with 
argosies and Greek drapery. This is commerce. This 
is the home of the god himself. This is why men hate 
him, and why men fear him, and why men endure him." 
Let all who are satisfied with the courses of modern 
England during the past decade consider if there be not 
at the last some warning of judgment in this verdict 
upon an evil thing. 

What is there common, it may be asked, to these 
different writers, what spirit which may form the key 
to the movement of the immediate years to come ? 
There is much evidently divergent ; a continuous transi- 
tion indeed from the complete denials of Mr. Yeats to 
the complete assertions of Mr. Chesterton. But in all 
may be traced one element ; the assertion of a passionate 
Nationalism against both the cosmopolitan ideals of the 
Victorian period at its beginning and the Imperial ideals 
at its close. In the vision of the earlier age all national 
differences were to smooth themselves out by the advance 
of knowledge and reasonableness. Common sense, com- 
merce, a universal peace were to create a homogeneous 
civilisation, secure in comfort and tranquillity and a 
vague, undogmatic religion. In the preaching of this 
ideal, undoubtedly some of its advocates came perilously 
near the abnegation of any special national affection, 
any particular pride in, or devotion to, their land ; and 
gave a handle to the dreary chatter of a Press which 
branded them as the friends of every country but their 
own. Against this came the reaction. Imperialism 
asserted, indeed, the devotion of the individual to his 



own land ; but crudely denied the right to others of a 
similar affection. It was convinced in pathetically 
sanguine fashion of the Divine mission of England to 
elevate each separate and subject race to the level of 
May fair or Brixton. So the Irish, the Dutch of South 
Africa, the natives of India, or of Nyassa (" half devil 
and half child ") for their own good were to be educated 
out of their own ways into English ways. They would 
be placed under the cold justice of the Imperial 
rule. They would be taught to forget their own lan- 
guage and deny their own religions and ancient pieties. 
They would learn to ascend the steep path of labour and 
virtue which would eventually turn them into some replica 
of that finished product of the universe, the Imperial 

Such was the ideal at its best. At its worst it became 
a crude assertion of dominance, with a contempt as much 
for the old England which had not apprehended these 
Imperial ideals as for the foreigner who still obstinately 
resisted their sway. 

Against both these movements is now being set a 
Nationalism which, on the one hand, passionately 
asserts a mystical and entire devotion to its own land ; 
on the other, a respect for the devotion of others. It 
brands the murder of a nation as a sin alike against 
man and God. One catches a note even of laughter 
in the defiant scorn with which the newer spirit 
confronts those who identify their own calamitous 
methods with the welfare of their country, and would 
brand all others as traitors. It is in the name of 
England, as Englishmen concerned primarily with the 
honour of their own land, as those to whom the very 
fields and flowers, and the breath of the particular soil 
speaks with an unchanging appeal, that these writers 



fling back the charges of disloyalty, made by those who 
have never been able to understand the meaning of the 
mystery of Patriotism. 

This is common to all. Mr. Yeats is at the heart of 
that National revival in life and literature which, in the 
past few years, has made Ireland, on the remote boun- 
daries of Europe, the centre of one of the few living and 
compelling movements of the age. All his devotion 
gathers towards the preservation of this individual 
spirit, the spirit " at the heart of the Celt in the 
moments he has grown to love through years of per- 
secution, when, cushioning himself about with dreams 
and hearing fairy-songs in the twilight, he ponders on 
the soul and on the dead." 

Mr. Watson laughs openly at " that odious charge 
of inconstancy to my beloved and worshipped mother- 
land." " To one conscious of these noble origins, 
conscious, too, of having loved his country with the 
vigilant love that cannot brook a shadow upon her 
honour, the charge of being against her because he 
deplores her temporary attitude and action, brings a 
kind of amazement that has in it something akin to 

Mr. Nevinson has devoted his days to appeals for 
the struggle of martyred nations to maintain their own 
life, in Ireland, in Macedonia, in South Africa. But 
all his affection centres upon the very soil of his own 

" The seas gulf and fall around her promontories," is 
his testimony, " or lie brooding there in green and purple 
lines. Her mountains are low, like blue waves they run 
along the horizon, and the wind flows over them. It is 
a country of deep pasture and quiet downs and earthy 
fields, where the furrows run straight from hedge to 



hedge. There is moorland too, and lakes with wild 
names, and every village is full of ancient story. The 
houses are clustered round old castle walls, and across 
the breezy distance of fen and common the grey cathe- 
drals rise like ships in full sail." 

Mr. Belloc is perhaps the most entirely Nationalist. 
He is all for the smaller community against the larger. 
He sings the praise of the South country whose " great 
hills stand along the sea," and of the men of the South 
country against the remoter regions of England. When 
he drinks the home-brewed ale he drinks (in his own 
absurd and happy phrase) " Nelson and all the Vic- 
tories." He will even protest in great language 
patriotism for a Europe encompassed with alien forces, 
a world outside which can never understand devotions 
beaten into her soil by the passion of a thousand 
years ; 

" She will certainly remain. 

" Her component peoples have merged and have re- 
merged. Her particular, famous cities have fallen down. 
Her soldiers have believed the world to have lost all, 
because a battle turned against them. Her best has at 
times grown poor and her worst rich. Her colonies have 
seemed dangerous for a moment from the insolence of 
their power, and then again (for a moment) from the 
contamination of their decline. She has suffered in- 
vasion of every sort; the East has wounded her in 
arms and corrupted her with ideas ; her vigorous blood 
has healed the wounds at once, and her permanent 
sanity has turned such corruptions into innocuous 
follies. She will certainly remain." 

And Mr. Chesterton has made himself the very 
apostle of a new Nationalism which proclaims this 
variegated development as an essential for the preser- 

33 D 


ration of the sanity of the world. " There is a spirit 
abroad among the nations of the earth," he cries, 
" which drives men incessantly on to destroy what they 
cannot understand, and to capture what they cannot 
enjoy." This is the spirit which all these men find in 
the faction which has been dominant in politics and 
literature. Its final and desperate rally is now gather- 
ing in the forces enlisting with Mr. Chamberlain, under 
the appeal both to cupidity and Imperial dominance, in 
a last effort to maintain a departing supremacy. And 
this is the spirit against which the new movement has 
declared uncompromising war. 

If literature be any guide, therefore, one can prophesy 
certain notes of the spirit of the coming time. 

First, this spirit will be National ; with no appearance 
of balanced affection and an equal approval and sympathy 
for all men, a universal benevolence. It will proclaim 
always a particular concern in the well-being of England 
and the English people ; a pride in its ancient history, 
its ancient traditions, the very language of its grey skies 
and rocky shore. 

Second, it will, I think, dissever itself entirely from 
those former rallies of a national spirit which have 
immediately identified a nation with a small and limited 
class, throwing up boundaries round its privileges 
against a hungry and raging crowd. There will be 
none of the follies of the " young England," or attempts 
to revive a feudalism which had vigour in its day, but 
now has ceased to be. The assertion will be of a 
spiritual democracy, with a claim for every Englishman 
and woman and child to some share in the great in- 
heritance which England has won. 

And third, therefore, you will note a bedrock demand 


in the thrusting forward of those problems of social 
discontent and social reform, which are destined 
ultimately to brush aside the futilities of the present 
party strife. Against those who protest their devotion 
to their country, but who have done nothing to make 
that country more desirable for the masses of its 
millions, and more secure in the devotion of free and 
satisfied peoples, will be set up a determination at all 
costs and through all changes to create an England 
more worthy of the land of our desire. The repatriation 
of a rural population with free men strong in the tenacity 
which only security and contact with the land can give, 
the grappling with the problems of our restless cities, 
the more even spread of the national wealth, the wider 
distribution of the good things which have flowed so 
plentifully into our store, the assertion of a minimum 
standard of life for each citizen of such a land these 
are the things which will become more and more 
insistent through the spirit that is arising after the 

No gleam of such radiant visions penetrates through 
the dusty atmosphere of contemporary politics. The 
observer, limited to so dreary an outlook, might well 
claim exoneration for despair of his country. Govern- 
ment and Parliament are to-day seen mouthing and 
mumbling over dead things with a kind of pompous 
futility which would be ridiculous if it were not so 
entirely tragical. 

Such verses as those of Shelley in 1819 seem alone 
adequate to the present ; with their vision of a 
"Senate" with "Time's worst statute unrepealed " ; 
religion as " a closed book" ; " rulers who neither see 
nor feel nor know." 

But now, as then, there can be hope of the presence 


also within these graves of that "glorious Phantom' 
which may "burst to illumine our tempestuous day." 
And those who have been watching all the long night 
for the signs of its passing can even now see the dark- 
ness lightened with the coming of the dawn. 



" Jls out aussi passe sur cette terre, ils ont descendu lefleuve 
du temps : on entendit leurs voix sur ses bords, et puis on 
n'entendit plus rien. . . . 

" 11 y en avail qui disaient : Qu'est-ce que cesflots qui now 
emportent ? Y a-t-il quelque cnose apres ce voyage rapide ? 
Nous ne le savons pas, nul ne le salt. Et comme Us disaient 
cela, lea rives s'evanouissoient. . . . 

" II y en avail aussi qui semblaient dans un recueillement 
profond ecouter une parore secrete, et puis I'ceil fixe sur le 
couchant, tout a coup ils chantaient une aurore invisible ct 
un jour qui ne finit jamais. . . . 

" Ou sont-ils ? Qui nous le dira? Heureux les morts qui 
meurent dans le Seigneur." 



YOU can count on the fingers of one hand the original 
and formative minds in English letters ; and there 
is one fewer to-day than yesterday. The advent of 
W. E. Henley marked the coming of a new spirit. His 
career coincided with its riotous supremacy. It was 
dead before he died. Its followers gathered round him 
as disciples round a master. It found expression in the 
short-lived journals which he edited so brilliantly. It 
stamped its seal upon a whole generation of young 
authors who became infected with its scorns and 
its devotions, and spread its faith through the English- 
speaking world. For the first time since the days of 
" Young England," literature was whole-heartedly on 
the side of the reaction. Barbarism and the joy of 
existence was one side of it, with a craving for tlje 
sharp and bitter rind of life. Imperialism and love of 
adventure was another the assertion of the right of the 
strong man to rule, to trample on the weak, to crush 
under and destroy for his pleasure. These were com- 
bined with the hunger for the raw and primitive and 
elemental ; the sloughing off of an ancient civilisation, 
the calling up of the beast and the savage to arise from 
their long sleep. No body of blameless citizens ever 
wallowed in blood so fearfully as Henley's young men. 
No man ever hated any cause more untiringly than 



Henley hated all that is meant by modern Liberalism. 
Democracy and the rule of the many ; the protection of 
the weak against the strong and the poor against the 
powerful ; the decencies and respectabilities of ordered 
life; the sentiment which dislikes pain and shrinks 
from the brutalities of war ; all attempts to find a 
sanctity in the rights of the common people, the cry 
of the oppressed these causes were involved in one 
universal condemnation. It was a spirit and a cult not 
without pose and affectation. But it was alive, fervent, 
consuming while it lasted much dead refuse. We who 
are emerging from its tyranny to the saner realities 
need not grudge an acknowledgment of the strength 
of the thundercloud and the fiery splendour of the 

What a feast of good things was represented by the 
old National Observer ! For a Saturday's sixpence one 
could obtain the first work of a dozen original and 
daring minds. There would be ferocious political 
leaders, sarcastic, bitter, striking to kill. These might 
be followed by a poem from an unknown author, just 
becoming talked about, a Mr. Kudyard Kipling. For 
"Middles" you might read one of that series of 
"Modern Men," the most incisive and dramatic 
character sketches in modern journalism ; or one of 
Henley's appreciations, as whole-hearted as his hatreds ; 
or Mr. Kenneth Graham's "Golden Age" tales; or 
Mr. Marriott Watson's sketches (he has never done 
better work) ; or, perhaps, the table-talk of Mr. 
Street's inimitable "boy," or Mr. Harold Frederic's 
Uncle. And in the reviews you would find something 
equally unexpected, a distinctive note behind the 
summary of contents, a sifting and judgment of 
ephemeral literature by the light of the fixed stars of 



criticism. Financially, it was a failure. The clever- 
ness and originality were too naked and unashamed. 
Men reeled back into the sobriety of The Spectator 
and similar safe periodicals. But for the few of that 
age who had received the great gift of youth all this 
noise and sparkle and glitter represented an adventure 
into fairyland. 

And the man who was at the centre of it all, the 
heart of this exuberant and boisterous activity, was the 
man who has died after a life of pain. The figure sug- 
gested was of a great laughing giant, full of the open air 
and physical well-being and personal response to the 
zest of the battle of existence. The reality was a 
tortured body, the experience of enormous suifering, life 
creeping ever on broken wing in a maimed and restless 
discomfort. With his life-long friend, Stevenson, he 
has gone down singing into the darkness. History will 
see these two optimists always in a clear white light of 
afternoon. While stout burgesses with ample means 
wept or squeaked over the miseries of existence and 
demonstrated their dolors to an admiring world, these 
two great sufferers from their beds of pain were pro- 
claiming the triumph of things. Coughing his life out 
in his darkened room, Stevenson sang carols in praise 
of God; so insistent that the innocent like Mr. Archer 
could reproach him for his too complacent exulta- 
tion, and praise of this " brave gymnasium." In hos- 
pital, stricken by poverty and perpetual pain, with 
nerves on the rack and the things he loved for ever 
beyond his grasp, Henley responded with thanks for his 
" unconquerable soul." Undoubtedly, when all transi- 
tory disputes have vanished, the world will deem itself 
the richer for so bracing an example. 

More even than in most men of genius the child 


survived in Henley. As a child he was wayward, 
capricious, vain; never reconciled to the limitations 
of life ; difficult to satisfy. He had all the child's 
passionate loves and hatreds, the sudden transitions of 
temper, the almost fierce affection ; with the occasional 
inexplicable impulses to injure those he loved. The 
attack on Stevenson, which caused the scandal of a day, 
was hut an example. It was one of the great friendships 
of history with depth and intimacy not yet fully re- 
vealed. The lines to Baxter "How good it sounds, 
Lewis and you and I" the dedications of "A child 
curious and innocent," and "Time and Change," the 
collaborated plays, show one side ; the figure of Burly in 
Stevenson's " Talk and Talkers," the unforgettable 
tribute at the end of the Christmas Sermon, the other. 
But he saw a lay figure set up for worship. He struck 
fiercely and blindly : at the figure and his dead friend. 
The world was scandalised and delighted. " Lewis " 
would have understood. 

It is for the child elements that he will stand in 
literature. He possessed a child's quick apprehension 
of the sensuous aspect of things the dying year and 
the coming of spring, night and the sea in storm, and 
all the magical world of out-of-doors. He loved with a 
child's delight the pageantry of war, the sword's " high, 
irresistible " song, the bright flash of steel, and the 
tramp of armed men. He had a childlike, unreserved 
love of England, expressing in a few magnificent 
ballads the mystery and sacredness of a Patriotism 
rare in these latter days. And in the most appealing 
and universal of all his poems, it is the child shrinking 
from the Unknown and the Future : the child that has 
suffered so much wistfully asking the meaning of it all : 
the simple, pitiful note of fear and surprise at 



"The terror of Time and Change and Death 
That wastes the floating, transitory world." 

There is little spontaneity in these songs. The 
experiments in rhymeless metre are not altogether 
successful. Even in the voice of triumph and exulta- 
tion there is always the background of douht and 
menace. The chill of the coming cold is in the songs 
of Summer: "in the sun, among the leaves, upon the 
flowers," creeps the shadow of the approach of Death. 
For all the indomitable spirit, the proclamation that life 
is worth living, and the refusal to whine and whimper, 
it is the sombre side of life which Henley paints in his 
poems. The Hospital Rhymes are mere jagged cries of 
agony. " Into the night go one and all," " fatuous, 
ineffectual yesterdays," " the menace of the irreclaim- 
able sea " of such stuff are his verses woven. Perhaps 
they will be remembered in the future more for their 
occasional magnificence of phrase than for any natural 
inevitableness and charm. " The past's enormous 
disarray"; "the unanswering generations of the 
dead"; "the immortal, inommunicable dream"; 
"the high austere, unpitying grave"; "night with 
her train of stars, And her great gift of sleep " these 
are as elemental and memorable as the great summaries 
of Whitman. His is the poetry read by poets, the 
quarry from which others will mine the marble and 
fashion it into a thing of beauty. 

As a great spirit unbreakable by time and fate, 
Henley will go down to the future. To this man were 
given many of the world's good things, varied interests, 
a power of passionate appreciation of the best in 
literature and common life, high and generous friend- 
ships, love which was the inspiration of all the most 



triumphant of his songs. To him also were given 
failure and pain : a perpetual ill-success in every enter- 
prise : such suffering of body and spirit as seemed to 
make him the sport of mischievous powers. All his 
literary schemes collapsed : he lacked money and the 
little satisfactions of a sheltered and tranquil existence. 
The craving for a life of action perpetually fretted him, 
the " home sickness " of " those detained at home un- 
willingly." He had one child whom he adored. She 
was torn from him ; and in one poem which sounds the 
uttermost depth of tears he pictures " the little exquisite 
Ghost " calling back across the grave to her Father and 
Mother in those home kingdoms left desolate by Death. 
Sometimes he was irritable and indignant, and struck at 
the friends who loved him. But for the most part there 
was a resignation, a determination to make the best of 
things, a resolute refusal to give up and acknowledge 
the triumph of the powers of darkness, which lifts the 
whole tragic record out of the region of sorrow, and 
transfigures it with a kind of glory. 

"So be my passing! 

My task accomplished and the long day done, 
My wages taken, and in my heart 
Some late lark singing. 
Let me be gathered to the quiet west, 
The sundown splendid and serene, 

The spirit of one of the most appealing of his earliei 
poems is the spirit in which most who knew and loved 
him will wish to bid him farewell. 



TWO writers are most responsible for whatever 
popular success has been attained by the move- 
ment termed a little grandiloquently "the Anglo- 
Catholic revival in England." The one, Christina 
Kossetti, wrote a few poems ; the other, J. Henry 
Shorthouse, one novel. A woman and a layman of 
the middle classes thus strangely provided the par- 
ticular atmosphere of mysticism and aspiration which 
softened the often hard, dogmatic teaching and the 
fantastic ritual of the younger clergy. The enormous 
popularity of " John Inglesant," described upon its first 
appearance as " having taken the world by storm " and 
enduring until to-day, is a little difficult fully to explain. 
It is written in a rare and delicate prose, revealing a 
rare and refined personality ; but this, if anything, 
would militate against a wide acceptance. It advertises 
itself as a " Romance," but readers anticipating 
"Tushery" of the familiar type are dismayed by an 
immediate plunge into Platonic discussions upon the 
nature of the soul. It possesses little sense of unity, 
and violates every law that should govern the successful 
novel. Yet it has never ceased to attract a varied array 
of champions. Its reception, indeed, is largely a matter 
of temperament. Mr. Birrell, with all his eclectic taste, 
has confessed that he cannot away with it. And many 



others less candid have probably in silence endorsed this 

The secret of this acceptance lies, I think, in an 
appeal to a type, widely spread, desirous of accepting a 
certain view of life. The world of Shorthouse in 
all his novels is a world viewed under a particular 
aspect. Existence is pictured as a perplexing and 
disturbed dream. Guidance is doubtful. The good 
is often at cross purposes with the good. Human 
life assumes the aspect now of a brilliant phantasia, 
now of a masquerade. The later renaissance in 
Italy, as shown in these pages, is progressing in an 
intoxicating atmosphere and under a vague sense of 
oppression. Men and women move through an en- 
chanted landscape charged with emotion. It is a vision 
above all of sudden transitions, of the irony of Change 
and Death everywhere crashing in upon the players. 
The transition is immediate from masques and revelry 
and unbridled license to the "Memento, homo, quia 
pulvis es," in which the lights suddenly wax dim and 
all the music changes into terror and tears. Through 
this strange pageant the strange pageant of life in 
all time viewed from the towers of Eternity John 
Inglesant " walked often as in a dream." 

But the appeal which caught the imagination of men 
living in an equally perplexing age rests in the conviction 
of the author that there is a clue to the mystery. As 
was said of Dante, "he believed, and in spite of all 
affirmed the high harmony of the world." 

This he was enabled to do by his spiritual interpreta- 
tion both of the inward voice and the outward pageant 
of things. In the latter he definitely accepted the 
sacramental view of Nature. We are back in the 
Middle Age. "All redness becomes blood, all water 



tears." The natural is but the thin veil of the super- 
natural, for ever almost bursting through. God is 
visibly acting in His world ; the most trivial events are 
charged with a spiritual significance. Other Presences 
are watching the little decisions of the little life of 
man. This view tolerates immediately, and without 
any sense of disturbance, the incursions into the 
story of mystery and miracle, the appearance of 
the ghost of Strafford, or the crystal vision of the 
death of Eustace. It is an attitude towards things 
which finds a satisfaction in the dramatic symbolism 
of an external ceremony, in music and light and ritual, 
which to the ordinary man may be but irritating. 
Others have shared the discovery of John Inglesant, 
in that most touching description of his visit to little 
Gidding, that "the gracious figure over the altar and 
the bowed and kneeling figures," are essentially con- 
gruous with "the misty autumn sunlight and the 
driving autumn rain." 

And the other clue to life's mazes Mr. Shorthouse 
found in that doctrine of the Inner Light which he 
received with his Quaker upbringing, and unfolded with 
so winning an appeal. The Platonic doctrine of the 
Divine guidance, of the direct call of God within the 
soul of man, is the belief which leads John Inglesant 
through the confused and troublous life of the seven- 
teenth century. It is heard in the three great crises of 
the book, to which all the lesser events lead, but which, 
when they come, come suddenly. The first is the temp- 
tation of the world, when De Cressy, the Benedictine, at 
Paris, offers him the more excellent way. The second 
is the temptation of the flesh, in the damp mists and 
breathless air in the flight with Laurette from Florence 
to Pistoia. The third is the temptation of the devil, in 



that most wonderful scene in the mountains of Umbria, 
when John Inglesant lays his sword on the altar of 
the little hillside chapel, and delivers his brother's 
murderer to the judgment of God. Through these and 
all other incidents of this play of tired children, amid 
the troublous clash of war, in strange ways, with love 
and loss, to the final serene sadness of old age, he has 
ever the apprehension of this unseen hand. The pro- 
mise was to his eager boyhood. " I think you may find 
this doctrine," said his teacher, " a light which will 
guide your feet in dark places ; and it would seem that 
this habit of mind is very likely to lead to the blessed- 
ness of the beatific vision of God." That promise 
survived through all the vanity and terror of existence 
tost amid the whirlpools of divergent spiritual tides. 
And after it is all over he can assert with the confidence 
of a direct experience that "we may not only know the 
truth, but we may live even in this life in the very 
household and courts of God." 

Shorthouse only wrote one book. For twenty years 
he put into these pages all his philosophy of existence. 
He had said his say, and there was nothing more to be 
said. Like Olive Schreiner, an author with whom, 
despite superficial incongruities, he has much in com- 
mon, he revealed his heart's secret in one supreme 
emotional utterance. Pressed by his friends, he did 
indeed essay further efforts. In the tranquil life of the 
little German Court of the eighteenth century, he could 
almost retain the atmosphere of large issues and spiritual 
meanings, and in consequence the story of little Mark 
nearly approaches success. But in the comfortable exis- 
tence of nineteenth-century England, grave and sane 
and without fear, in the life of the ordered city concerned 
with sanitation and the Poor Law, the particular 



spiritual ardour which he loved to portray appears 
forced and artificial. So Lady Falaise failed, and Sir 
Percival, his hero warrior, modelled after Gordon's 
pattern, whose actual description perhaps almost 
justified Barry Pain's cruel parody of the conversation 
under the Tulip Tree. The writer who has most nearly 
approached the spirit and success of Shorthouse's hero 
in the modern world is John Oliver Hobbes in her 
" Eobert Orange." The record of the fashioning in 
Vanity Fair through great bitterness in the School for 
Saints of a "Weapon keen and pliant to the will of God, 
is a record of one moving amongst the phantom society 
of the nineteenth century, as Inglesant moved through 
the phantom courts of Italy three hundred years ago. 
But the book most revealing the same inner spirit, with 
something of the delicacy and charm of style, is the 
" Road Mender," the work of an author also indebted 
to a Quaker upbringing for keen insight into the things 
of the spirit, and a capacity for the estimating, at true 
value, of the Temporal and the Eternal. 

The style of Shorthouse at its best stands almost 
without rival in the literature of the past twenty years 
for a particular refinement and delicacy. The inevitable 
comparison is with Newman : not that " John Inglesant " 
achieves even a momentary rivalry with that supreme 
perfection of English prose, but that in each case there 
is an altogether personal secret and appeal which defies 
analysis. Passage after passage reads like music. 
Who is ever likely to forget the concluding scene of 
this great spiritual record : the sunset over the city : 
and after the storm, in the quiet air of England, far 
from the confused and passionate life of Italy, John 
Inglesant's farewell? 

" We are like children, or men in a tennis-court, and 
49 E 


before our conquest is half won the dim twilight comes 
and stops the game ; nevertheless, let us keep our 
places, and, above all things, hold fast by the law of 
life we feel within. Let us follow in His steps, and 
we shall attain to the ideal life ; and, without waiting 
for our ' mortal passage,' tread the free and spacious 
streets of that Jerusalem which is above. 

" He spoke more to himself than to me. The sun, 
which was just setting behind the distant hills, shone 
with dazzling splendour for a moment upon the towers 
and spires of the city across the placid water. Behind 
this fair vision were dark rain-clouds, before which 
gloomy background it stood in fairy radiance and light. 
For a moment it seemed a glorious city, bathed in life 
and hope, full of happy people who thronged its streets 
and bridge, and the margin of its gentle stream. But 
it was ' breve gaudium.' Then the sunset faded, and 
the ethereal vision vanished and the landscape lay dark 
and chill. 

" ' The sun is set,' Mr. Inglesant said cheerfully, 
' but it will rise again. Let us go home.' ' 

Only to those secure in such a serenity, amid all the 
terror of passing things, can come, in the splendour of 
sunset, so tranquil an acceptance of the ending of 
the day. 



" r I iHE year 1851," was said when Turner died, 
JL " will in the future be remembered less for 
what it has displayed than for what it has withdrawn." 
The same prophecy may surely be made of the year 
which took from us, scarcely noticed amid the clamour 
of disastrous war, John Kuskin and Henry Sidgwick. 
Each was in many respects typical of the University 
he served so well. Ruskin was a child of Oxford. 
Eloquent, famous, dogmatic, no worshipper of con- 
sistency, he lived before the world, taking all men into 
the confidence of his changing opinion. Sidgwick, 
retired, restrained, almost unknown to the crowd, 
advanced with cautious steps, weighing each sentence 
before giving it utterance, putting his life-force into 
work for his University. The one attracted crowded 
audiences to his lectures, which were subsequently read 
wherever +he English language was spoken. The other 
at Cambridge addressed twelve or twenty students, and 
only appealed in his writings to a few serious minds. 
The death of the one, even in the most perilous period 
of the war, was marked by the lamentation of the multi- 
tude. The death of the other passed almost unnoticed 
by the Press and the busy world. Future ages, I think, 
will find a difficulty in deciding to which of these 
two thinkers the world owes the profounder debt of 



Clarity of thought and unwavering fairness towards 
opponents are characteristic of Sidgwick's philosophical 
writings. Only once did he appear to approach the 
limits of legitimate criticism : in his half-contemptuous 
dismissal of Herbert Spencer's philosophy as a serious 
advance in the progress of thought. For the rest his 
expositions of other men's systems were astonishingly 
clear and generous. He sometimes humorously com- 
plained that he had never been able to found a school 
at Cambridge : that no body of students acknowledged 
him as their master. How could he found a school of 
followers, who so temptingly placed before us the claims 
of so many different philosophies : who would expound 
another's creed with the same enthusiasm as his own ? 
The school he founded was a school of those who 
attained divergent positions, but who all acknowledged 
the lessons learnt from him: fairness to opponents, 
ardent search for enlightenment, devotion to truth 
wherever it might lead them. 

He had resigned his fellowship in early life as incom- 
patible with his beliefs. He never faltered in his con- 
viction of the impossibility of the old tests and articles. 
Yet all must have noted in his controversy with Dr. 
Rashdall on the limits of religious conformity, how 
anxious he was not to draw these limits tightly round 
others. He would allow for all possibilities before 
branding any fellow-man as guilty of the moral laxity 
which with him always ranked amongst the deadly sins. 
And yet with all this was no mistiness, no vagueness 
in which all distinction vanishes. The limit may be 
made as comprehensive as possible. But it is drawn at 
the last with no faltering hand. Beyond this line, as he 
can see it, there is a region to which no man may go 
without peril to his soul. 



His " Ethics " is his greatest work. As a moralist 
he will first be remembered. They are right who say 
that he possessed a mind essentially analytical. They 
are wrong who assert that he confined himself to criti- 
cism and presented no constructive system. He broke up 
the old Utilitarianism, with its illogical confusion of the 
claims of self and others. He attempted to resolve all 
the social duties into the primary virtue of benevolence. 
And he acknowledged that the impulse to seek the 
happiness of others owns its origin to an intuition which 
no purely human outlook can justify or explain. So in 
his famous concluding chapter he protested the insuf- 
ficiency of all the popular naturalistic systems, and the 
inadequacy of the moral sanction without the postulates 
of God and Immortality. 

His work was greater than his writing. The 
University of Cambridge in its present constitution is 
largely his creation. For twenty years he was the 
acknowledged leader of the party of reform which 
effected the transition from the old age to the new. 
All through the struggle he was working for the expan- 
sion of the University beyond its ancient limitations, 
for the increasing of its capacity of national service. 
In the efforts for the abolition of sinecures, the abandon- 
ment of theological tests, the growth of the University 
beyond the limits of the Colleges, above all in the 
opening of its teaching to women students, he played 
a prominent part. He lived to see the quiet induc- 
tion of changes which a former time would have con- 
templated with forebodings of ruin. Only at the close of 
his long term of service was the outlook clouded by the 
reaction inevitable after far-reaching reform. During 
his later years there came the triumph of a conserva- 
tism once impotent. All the special movements he had 



advanced were suddenly checked in their progress. 
The recognition of external students was refused by 
the rejection of their appeal for the diploma. The 
struggle for religious liberty was checked by the refusal 
to sanction St. Edmund's Hostel for Roman Catholic 
students. Above all, the long effort for the education of 
women was disastrously closed by the defeat of the 
appeal for the titular degree. He could not be indif- 
ferent to this change in the University he loved so well. 
He recognised the inevitable, resigned his position on the 
Council, and withdrew himself from the arena of conflict. 
Here was no feeling of pique or transitory despondence. 
But he acknowledged that his own work was done ; that 
the future belonged to a newer generation, inspired by 
different ideals. 

So he noted a similar change in the wider questions 
of his time. He had thrown himself with ardour into 
the struggle for religious liberty which ennobled the 
middle years of the century. " Absorbed," he described 
the company to which he belonged, " in struggling for 
freedom of thought in the trammels of an historical 
religion." He had lived to see the triumph of his 
cause. Now a new age had dawned and new dangers 
threatened the health of society. He turned to confront 
the problems of the newer time. " Freedom is won," 
he said, "and what does Freedom bring us to? It 
brings us face to face with atheistic science : the faith 
in God and Immortality, which we had been struggling 
to clear from superstition, suddenly seems to be in tJie 
air : and in seeking for a firm basis for the fight we find 
ourselves in the midst of the ' fight with death.' ' 

The Metaphysical Society of which he had been a 
member had represented the older struggle : the conflict 
of widely disordered faiths and denials. It had seen 



the triumph of its aims the practical toleration of all 
forms of belief and negation. Now the time for re- 
construction had come the survivors should gather 
together after the great conflict. So the newer Syn- 
thetic Society was formed : endeavouring to unite all 
those to whom the word "God" bore some intelligible 
meaning. He himself had laid down the first principles 
of union in his admirable clear essays. And in all the 
further work of reconstruction it is difficult to over-esti- 
mate the loss of his penetrating criticism, unflinching 
expression of truth, and eager search for faith adequate 
to save mankind from advancing indifference and 

His active work for the Psychical Research Society 
was but an application of the principle which guided 
all his progress. Here was no credulous search 
after a spirit of divination, or hunger for marvels 
in an age staled by custom. But he was ever the 
seeker for all knowledge which could throw light upon 
the things of life. He advanced as readily along 
new and unpopular paths as on the beaten tracks of 
progress. He ever waged unceasing war against the 
spirit of condemnation without judgment, of rejection 
of evidence because undesired, whether manifested in 
the older theology or the newer sciences. So he gave 
his great name and critical powers to the study of the 
mysterious phenomena of the border world. He was 
once the dupe of clever schemers, and often the subject 
of the mockery of the Press. But he continued to 
support the work until the end. The evidence con- 
vinced him of the presence of dim, undefined forces, 
of something operating in the world of human con- 
sciousness which the ordinary man had failed to 
recognise and science had hitherto ignored : and he 


was determined in the necessity for the continuance 
of the study and the wresting of the control of obscure 
mental phenomena from the hands of the quack and the 
charlatan. But it failed to yield him, as it seemed to 
yield to some, clear and indubitable proof of the life 
beyond death. Neither here nor in any past time could 
he find satisfactory evidence of the penetration of the 
inscrutable secret of the grave. 

The philosophical proofs of Theism he was unable 
to accept as satisfactory. " The more sceptical atti- 
tude," he said, " has remained mine through life." 
But he was convinced that belief in God and in Im- 
mortality are vital to human well-being. " Humanity" 
this was his unshakable conviction " humanity 
will not and cannot acquiesce in a godless world." 
He was eager to recognise the complete relativity 
of our knowledge: the vast sea of ignorance that 
surrounds us. One of his favourite theses rested on the 
possibility of another great religious inspiration. He 
could hope for the return of a period of unclouded 
faith after the age of disintegration had passed away. 
He re-echoes the famous lines of his friend, which he 
says he " could never read without tears " : the pro- 
test of the heart against the " freezing reason " and the 
sound of "an ever-breaking shore that tumbles in the 
godless deep ": the spirit that feels as " a child that 
cries but crying knows his Father near." Wir heissen 
euch hoffen the sad yet not entirely mournful refuge of 
so many of the great men of his time was his final 
message. " The revealing visions come and go : when 
they come we feel that we know : but in the intervals 
we must pass through states in which all is dark, and 
in which we can only struggle to hold the conviction 



" Power is with us in the night 
Which made the darkness and the light 
And dwells not in the light alone." 

Beyond the work, greater far than the creed, was 
the personality of the teacher we knew and loved. 
To the younger of us at Cambridge, seeing in him 
a figure who had " drunk delight of battle with his 
peers " in the controversies of the age, he seemed 
indeed the " Man of Wisdom " of the Greek dreamer ; 
the philosopher whom the people, were they not blind, 
would drag forth and crown king. To us he stood for 
" philosophy " at its highest. Here was the spirit 
which showed the power of the student of all time 
and all existence. We noted in him the capacity for 
weighing evidence, the detached judgment, the multi- 
farious interests in all the thought and progress of the 
world. His lectures were attended by a scanty few. 
Men complained that they were of little utility for the 
schools. In metaphysic he would spend the course of 
a term in defining the words used and laying down 
the first principles. The more impatient fled away. 
In ethic he would trace the course of his own 
spiritual development : from the Utilitarianism of Mill 
through the influence of Butler: a progress always 
directed to one end through the troubled waters of 
controversy. To those pursuing a difficult voyage 
through the same unquiet sea, the lectures proved 
unique and fascinating. When we came to know 
him personally, our respect and admiration deepened. 
His hospitality at Newnham was long to be remem- 
bered. Without the asceticism he repudiated or the 
luxury he deplored in the newer generation, he proved 
a host to whom we would readily have given all our 
evenings. He was a brilliant talker, and we would 



gladly have listened to him in silence. This he would 
never allow. He would draw out the retiring, tolerate 
the absurd, welcome even the dull and commonplace. 
Our most fatuous remarks would be accepted and 
discussed. We left feeling that we were worth 
more than we had thought before : humbled indeed 
by comparison with an almost impossible standard of 
attainment: but saved from utter self-distrust by the 
recognition that even to the mediocre and ignorant 
there was the possibility of an occasional inspiration. 

Nor will his assistance be forgotten in deeper matters. 
More and more his advice was sought on questions of 
perplexity and honour. It came to be accepted that 
any course meeting with the approval of his high ideal 
of life could be pursued with clear conscience. Those 
alone who were accustomed to turn to him in the 
difficult problems of practical life could adequately 
understand the dreary, almost incredible blank created 
by the knowledge of his death. 

The end was worthy of the life. A paper read before 
the Synthetic Society marked the beginning of the end. 
" Everybody was struck by the power of the paper," 
wrote one who was present, "but they were even more 
impressed by the animation and brilliance with which 
the reader took part in the subsequent debate. A few 
days later his hearers learnt that their guest had gone 
through the evening with the prospect of almost immi- 
nent death before him." The command had suddenly 
come to set his house in order. He prepared for death 
by a rapid and terrible disease as one going on a 
journey. One after the other he detached himself from 
the multifarious accumulated interests of a busy life. 
He resigned the professorship to which he had added 
such distinction, only anxious that the work should be 



carried forward by the most competent hands. He 
enforced secrecy as to the nature of his illness. He 
would leave the place in which he had played so high a 
part without any needless demonstration of ceremony or 
of pity. He set himself in the last few months of 
suffering, with no complaining against the inscrutable 
decree, to await the end : still willing, as far as in him 
lay, to perform the duties of life, still interested in the 
activities of the scene he was so soon to leave for ever. 
Although all knew the end was inevitable and the most 
speedy was the most kindly, the news came with no 
ordinary wonder that Henry Sidgwick had joined the 
" unanswering generations of the dead." His writing 
represents the philosophy of a transitional time, and may 
not be destined long to endure. His reputation, always 
confined to the few, will soon vanish from the memory 
of man. But the character which shone so brightly 
through those closing scenes, greater far than his 
thought or his work, cannot but survive the inexorable 
years. Wir heissen euch lioffen. We bid you to hope. 
Is there anything more to say ? 



O WARDS the end of Myers's life, inspired by 
_ that shining energy which only seemed to 
increase as the sun dropped to the horizon, the 
Psychical Research Society initiated an inquiry into 
the attitude of modern man towards the promise 
of immortal life. The investigation was, I believe, 
abandoned in England, where reticence still forbids 
an eager sincerity about ultimate questions. But it 
flourished mightily in America, where a new child race 
will discuss its own spiritual anatomy with all the 
candour of interested children. I am not sure if the 
complete results have ever been published. I know some 
of the replies to the printed questions were of extra- 
ordinary interest. The inquiry was of belief in 
immortality and of hope for immortality. The main 
revelation was of the latter. The attestation of man's 
belief is irrelevant. Few know what they believe at all. 
Belief changes from day to day, and in various atmo- 
spheres, like a guttering flame. Belief over the breakfast- 
table is something different from belief in time of the 
soul's upheaval, or confronting the piteous silence of the 
dead. And in any case belief or disbelief in life beyond 
the grave can have no effect upon that life's reality or 
illusion. But hope is more vital. A man is more at 
home with his desires. And the hope itself may be a 



factor in that hope's fruition ; in a universe where, as 
a matter of experience, each hungry soul receives its 
heart's desire; life more and fuller for those who 
demand it, for those who demand it also the sleep of an 
eternal night. 

The answers exhibited a large and sincere body of 
opinion joyfully accepting this second alternative. The 
note of some was contentment with life well spent, 
slowly rounding off the long day's work into the tran- 
quillity of evening. The cry of others was the old cry of 
startled fear at the unknown. " In that sleep of death 
what dreams may come " seems to become a question 
even more haunting with the advance of the years. They 
feared to take the chance. Visions of a future menace 
have been intensified by the spectral discoveries of the 
sciences. The rolling up of the curtain of space and 
time has revealed a boundless universe of night and 
terrors, flaring fires of sun and star, an abyss without 
purpose or plan. The perplexity of Tennyson in old age 
before the vision of Vastness, the pathetic cry of Spencer 
as he confronts an unintelligible evolution and dissolu- 
tion with, beyond, an emptiness or reality all unknown, 
has bitten deep into the minds of the more serious men 
of the age. 

But with most the desire for an end was built neither 
upon contentment with the present nor fear of an incal- 
culable future. The proclamation of life-weariness was 
the dominant assertion. The shrinking was not from 
life's suffering and confusion, but from life itself. The 
assertion has come from a civilisation tired alike of so 
much and so little that the effort of hope and change 
is itself an evil ; in a universe the fit consummation of 
whose courses will be rest and quietness. 

Against such acquiescence all the life of this man 

was one passionate protest. He was filled with a fury 
of aspiration similar to that of Tennyson after life's 
unending day. Better life in all the circles of the 
mediaeval inferno, both of these life-worshippers as- 
serted, than life vanishing like the vapour or the 
candle-flame when the tale is told. The triumph of 
death was the one unendurable consummation. The 
acceptance of such a belief, while it lasted, in his 
own experience emptied the zest from human action, 
stole all the colours from the flowers. Life under 
such a domination of greyness became a mere gnawing 
of dead bones, a mumbling in the darkness ; told by 
an idiot ; signifying nothing. Myers refused to accept 
such a negation until some voice which rendered doubt 
impossible proclaimed the death of man, and no hope in 
dust. In the midst of an age and civilisation stamped 
with life-weariness, literature everywhere finding a 
sombre satisfaction in the end of it all, he appears as 
a figure from another, more ardent, age. He belongs in 
spirit to that earlier time when life piled on life appeared 
all too little for the hungry heart of man ; or to the 
new outburst of human energies in the birth of modern 
days, when man flung himself with a kind of heroic fury 
upon the boundaries of his tiny world. 

It is in this nursing of the unconquerable hope through 
an age too much inclined to abandon the quest in despair, 
that Myers remained as a figure of unfading interest ; far 
more than in any definite discovery which he thought 
himself to have made of that hope's vindication. Given 
life, he was entirely content with anything that life 
might bring. He never had any fear of the possibilities 
of evil dreams. He demanded no paradise of jewels and 
gold. He feared no clumsy or malignant forces. He 
asked merely " the glory of going on and still to be." 



His attitude to the last was one of a large curiosity ; 
" a little disappointed," he once wrote to me after 
illness, at not " passing over." It was a re-echo of 
Kingsley's " Beautiful, kind Death, when will you come 
and tell me what I want to know?" Something was 
there of Whitman's brave spirit as the shadow crept 
ever nearer over the hills 

" The untold want by life and land ne'er granted \ 
Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find." 

The fragment of autobiography, published after his 
death, so perfect in form, so resonant, to those of us 
privileged to know its author, of that triumph of certainty 
which filled all its later years, so tantalisingly brief and 
broken to some who knew how much he had to say of 
life's spiritual voyages, exhibited in every line this con- 
cern in the one absorbing question. Early religion 
which never gripped the heart yielded immediately to 
the fascinations of the Hellenic ideal. It was a species 
of intoxication ; fostering evil as well as good ; aiding 
in his own words " imaginative impulse and detachment 
from sordid interests " ; but providing " no check for 
pride." It rose in a night as a revelation of a world of 
unfading beauty. It fell in a day with the realisation that 
nothing remained of it all but ruins and a dream. In a 
vision, gazing from the summit of Syra on Delos and the 
Cyclades, and those straits and channels of purple sea, 
he apprehended that all this was dead and gone for ever. 
And he turned, " with a passion of regret," from a world 
which suddenly had crumbled to a little dust. 

Afterwards, through the influence of Josephine Butler, 
"Christian conversation came in a potent form." He 
was introduced by an inner door, " not to its encum- 



bering forms and dogmas, but to its heart of fire." 

That " heart of fire " breathes through every line of 

" St. Paul," the one great Evangelical poem of the 
century : 

" Yea through life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning 

He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed ; 
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning, 
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ." 

Alas! the vision faded, and the ardour. "I, even I," 
at first he could write to a friend, "wretched and half- 
hearted beginner as I am, can almost say already that I 
know the thing is true." " Gradual disillusion " came 
from increased knowledge of history and of science, from 
wider outlook on the world. That Christ, as in the 
vision of a whole age, now appeared as "dead in that 
lone Syrian town." The manger is found, filled with 
mouldy hay ; the rain pours through the broken roof ; 
the wind moans outside unheeded : 

" The ancient stars are tired and dim, 
And no new star announces Him." 

" Insensibly the celestial vision faded " ; and " left 
me to ' pale despair and cold tranquillity.' ' 

" It was the hope of the whole world that was 
vanishing," he wrote, "not more alone." The effect 
of agnosticism upon him was wholly evil. " During 
this phase only can I remember anything of dreariness 
and bitterness of scorn of human life, of anger at 
destiny, of deliberate preference of the pleasures of the 
passing hour." 

An entry in the diary, " H.S. on Ghosts," marked the 
first line of light on the horizon. The thought came 
to him of turning the weapons of negation against itself 
and utilising in the work of rebuilding the very forces 



which had destroyed the cloud-capped palaces. Lifers 
continuance should no longer be guaranteed by dreams 
and visions, wild, unsupported hopes, a priori philosophy, 
or the shadowy remembrance of things belonging to an 
ever remoter past. But the evidence of the empirical 
method itself, the severest tests which reason could 
desire of manifestations now actually in the world, 
should certify existence beyond the grave. Science 
should itself rebuild what science had destroyed. 

Varied motives drew first together that little band of 
adventurers who were prepared to explore and to occupy 
regions of experience, avoided by the common man as 
poisonous and unclean. With some it was the demand 
for rescue of such mysterious kingdoms from the 
dominion of the criminal and the charlatan. With 
others it was the conviction, an inheritance from the 
ardour of the Renaissance, that no element in this 
unintelligible world should be ruled out of investigation. 
With a third was a faint, if never entirely articulate, 
hope that here might be given the very key of the 
unopened door, which every generation of man had 
sought to find in vain. Myers, then, as in all his days, 
made no secret of his motive. It was less to investigate 
dispassionately with a scientific detachment than with a 
kind of furious determination to tear from Nature herself 
the secret she had hidden for so long that he undertook 
this exploration of the rubbish-heaps of life. He con- 
fesses his first reluctance to " re-entering by the scullery 
window the heavenly mansion out of which I had been 
kicked by the back door." But he wrestled with this 
mysterious spirit behind the world's outward show, as 
Jacob wrestled with his mysterious visitant till the break- 
ing of the day. " ' I will not let thee go until thou 
bless me ' so cried I in spirit to that unanswering shade." 

65 F 


In that heroic struggle he consumed the remainder 
of his days. From near the beginning he held himself 
to have obtained the evidence he desired. That hope 
sustained him to the end. The results can be studied 
in innumerable green volumes, The Transactions of the 
"Psychical Research Society," and in the great work 
issued after his death, in which he sets out at length the 
evidence and the theories he had built upon it. It was 
not an opinion, but a conviction. It transfigured all his 
later life. I had the privilege of working some slight 
degree with him in the last years. I shall never forget 
the eagerness with which he essayed the work of in- 
vestigation, the welcome to all obscure and remote 
testimony, the sense almost of awe with which he would 
announce some fresh fragment of evidence, however 
grotesque or ridiculous. No devotee of the older religion 
hunted for souls more eagerly than Myers hunted for 
news of ghost stories and telepathy and roaming per- 
sonalities and inexplicable tricks of hypnotism and 
magic. I remember in sorting evidence with him 
noting how his spirits would rise as the record of some 
particular incident would deepen in mystery and horror. 
It was a lifelong disappointment to him that, although 
he pursued ghosts with the ardour of the youthful 
Shelley, the actual vision was never vouchsafed to him. 
No evidence of fraud deterred him. No ridicule in the 
least affected him. After the detection of deliberate 
cheating in one notorious " medium " at Cambridge, 
his companions (perhaps wisely) refused to have any 
further communication with her. Myers was undeterred 
He was summoned to fresh seances at Paris ; and I 
well remember being called to meet him on his 
return and finding him triumphantly convinced that 
in this particular case phenomena had occurred beyond 
the possibilities of human trickery to devise. 



The generations of undergraduates who passed so 
quickly by him regarded all this with perplexity. He 
was a magnificent lecturer upon literature and much 
in demand for literary societies. He always charged 
his discussion of his subject Swinburne, Morris, and 
the rest with the expression of the one hope which 
burned like a flame at his heart. He would gather 
small bands of students, attracted somewhat fearfully, 
to listen to his occult revelations. One meeting especially 
I recollect, in which, after Myers had told a succession 
of ever more blood-curdling ghost stories, in the breath- 
less silence a late arrival suddenly crashed against the 
door outside. The effect was somewhat similar to the 
knocking at the gate after the murder of Macbeth, an 
immediate galvanic shock in the " startled air." 

His own life and vitality seemed more convincing 
evidence of immortality than all these testimonies of 
strange forces. It was impossible to conceive that 
strong soul passing into nothingness, the triumphant 
energy meekly bowing before the supremacy of death. 
His purpose was ever to sail beyond the sunset. 
Exultation was in all his doing. It is upon a note 
of exultation he closes his brief testimony of a life 
given to high causes. Exultation remains in the great 
line which is carved upon the tablet erected to his 
memory beyond the walls of Rome, in that most sacred 
spot of English ground outside the boundaries of Eng- 
land. Above the tomb where lies all that is mortal 
of Shelley, stands the self-chosen summary of his life's 

ApVVflCVOQ T\VTt \j/V)(f)V KCU VOffTOV tYctlpWV, 

" Striving to save my own soul, and my comrades 
homeward way." 



OF all the losses which literature has lately endured, 
the death of Gissing stands out as most exhibit- 
ing the ragged edge of tragedy. That Death should 
come just at the wrong moment was indeed entirely 
congruous with a life which seemed all through the 
sport of the gods. The irony of some malign or 
malicious power seemed to be laid upon the course of 
this troubled existence. It was almost with a clutch 
of some frantic laughter a laughter more desolate 
than tears that there came to his friends, at the 
moment when life at last seemed beginning, the news 
that life was at an end. 

One's whole being revolted against such a bitter 
bludgeoning of fate. Readers of "Mark Rutherford" 
will remember the restrained but passionate irony of 
the close. After the unendurable years are over, when 
life has emerged into afternoon, with a prospect of 
light at eventide, a few dispassionate sentences tell 
of a sudden chance chill, a few days' struggle, and 
then another of earth's unimportant millions lies quiet 
for ever. So it was with George Gissing. A long 
struggle against heavy odds, the experience of the 
worst, public neglect and private tragedies, had at last 
given place to something like hopefulness and fame. 
Recognition, long deserved, had arrived. The crudest 
of life's cruelties had vanished. A beniguer outlook, a 



softer, kindlier vision of the " farcical melodrama " of 
man's existence had been apparent in these later 
months. The words of the last of his books he saw 
published sound strangely prophetic. "We hoped" so 
he wrote of " Henry Byecroft " "we hoped it would 
all last for many a year ; it seemed, indeed, as though 
Ryecroft had only need of rest and calm to become 
a hale man." "It had always been his wish to die 
suddenly. . . . He lay down upon the sofa in his study, 
and there as his calm face declared passed from 
slumber into the great silence." 

This is not the time to tell the details of that 
troubled life, of the tragedy which lay behind that 
arduous literary toil and coloured all the outlook with 
indignation and pain. Some day, for the edification 
or the warning of the children of the future, the 
full story will be told. All that it is necessary to 
know at the present is contained in those books in 
which the author, under the thin veil of fiction, is pro- 
testing out of his own heart's bitterness against the 
existence to which he has been committed. "For 
twenty years he had lived by the pen. He was a 
struggling man beset by poverty and other circum- 
stances very unpropitious to work." " He did a great 
deal of mere hack-work : he reviewed, he translated, he 
wrote articles. There were times, I have no doubt, 
when bitterness took hold upon him ; not seldom he 
suffered in health, and probably as much from moral 
as from physical overstrain." The tyranny of this 
nineteenth-century Grub Street drove his genius into 
a hard and narrow groove. He might have developed 
into a great critic witness the promise of his essay on 
Dickens. There was humour in him all unsuspected by 
the public till the appearance of " The Town Traveller." 



And a keen eye for natural beauty, and a power of 
description of the charm and fascination of places, and 
a passionate love of nature and of home were only made 
manifest in "By the Ionian Sea," and the last and 
most kindly volume. 

All this was sacrificed : in part to a perverted sense of 
" Mission," the burden, as he thought, laid upon him 
to proclaim the desolation of modern life : partly to 
a determination to make manifest to all the world 
his repugnance and disgust. He remains, and will 
remain, in literature as the creator of one particular 
picture. Gissing is the painter, with a cold and mor- 
dant accuracy, of certain phases of city life, especially 
of the life of London, in its cheerlessness and bleak- 
ness and futility, during the years of rejoicing at the 
end of the nineteenth century. If ever in the future 
the long promise of the Ages be fulfilled, and life 
becomes beautiful and passionate once again, it is to 
his dolorous pictures that men will turn for a vision 
of the ancient tragedies in a City of Dreadful Night. 

Gissing rarely if ever described the actual life of 
the slum. He left to others the natural history of 
the denizens of " John Street " and the " Jago." The 
enterprise, variety, and adventurous energy of those 
who led the existence of the beast would have dis- 
turbed with a human vitality the picture of his dead 
world. It was the classes above these enemies of 
society, in their ambitions and pitiful successes, which 
he made the subject of his genius. He analyses into 
its constituent atoms the matrix of which is composed 
the characteristic city population. With artistic power 
and detachment he constructs his sombre picture, till 
a sense of almost physical oppression comes upon the 
reader, as in some strange and disordered dream. 


There are but occasional vivid incidents ; the vitriol- 
throwing in "The Nether World"; the struggle of 
the Socialists in " Demos," as if against the ten- 
tacles of some slimy and unclean monster ; the par- 
ticular note of revolt sounded in " New Grub Street," 
when the fog descends not merely upon the multitude 
who acquiesce, but upon the few who resist. But in 
general the picture is merely of the changes of time 
hurrying the individuals through birth, marriage, and 
death, but leaving the general resultant impression 
unchanged. Vanitas vanitatum is written large 
over an existence which has " never known the sun- 
shine nor the glory that is brighter than the sun." 
Human life apprehends nothing of its possibilities of 
sweetness and gentleness and high passion. The 
energies, rude or tired, flaming into pitiful revolt or 
accepting from the beginning the lesson of inevitable 
defeat, end all alike in dust and ashes. 

The Islington of " Demos," the Camberwell of " The 
Year of Jubilee," the Lambeth of " Thyrza" : how the 
whole violent soul of the man revolted against existence 
set in these! The outward obsession of the grey 
labyrinth seemed to reflect the spirit of a race of 
tragic ineptitude. Comfort has been attained, and some 
security. But beauty has fled from the heart, and the 
hunger for it passed into a vague discontent. Religion 
has lost its high aspiration. Passion has become 
choked in that heavy air. The men toil the decent 
and the ignobly decent without ever a sense of illu- 
mination in the dusty ways, or the light of a large 
purpose in it all. The women what an awful picture- 
gallery of women appears in Gissing's tales of suburban 
existence ! nag and hate, are restless with boredom 
and weariness, pursue ignoble, unattainable social 



aspirations, desire without being satisfied. The whole 
offers a vision more disquieting and raucous than any 
vision of the squalor of material failure. Here, the 
Showman seems to announce at intervals, always 
with an ironic smile, here is the meaning of culture, 
civilisation, religion in the forefront of your noisy 
"progress," in the city of your heart's desire. 

" Her object," said Mr. Hutton, of George Eliot's 
" Middlemarch," " is to paint not the grand defeat, but 
the helpless entanglement and miscarriage of noble 
aims, to make us see the eager stream of high purpose, 
not leaping destructively from the rock, but more or 
less silted up in the dreary sands of modern life." I 
have often thought this might serve for a verdict upon 
all Gissing's characteristic work. To produce this 
result he had, indeed, to cut out great sections of 
human activity. The physical satisfaction in food and 
the greater physical satisfaction in drink ; the delight 
in the excitement of betting, an election, an occasional 
holiday ; the illumination which comes to a few, at 
least, from a spiritual faith or an ideal cause ; even the 
commonest joy of all, " the only wage," according to 
the poet, which "love ever asked " : 

" A child's white face to kiss at night, 
A woman's smile by candlelight " : 

all these, if introduced at all, appear merely to relieve 
for a moment the picture of the desolation of London's 
incalculable, bewildered millions. Gissing set himself a 
legitimate artistic effort : the representation of modern 
life in a certain aspect, seen under a certain mood. It 
is London, not in the glories of starlight or sunset, but 
under the leaden sky of a cold November afternoon. 
The third of Henley's "London Voluntaries" is the 



characteristic outward scene of Mr. Gissing's gaunt 
picture; in which the " afflicted city " 

" seems 

A nightmare labyrinthine, dim and drifting, 
With wavering gulfs and antic heights, and shifting, 
Bent in the stuff of a material dark, 
Wherein the lamplight, scattered and sick and pale, 
Shows like the leper's living blotch of bale." 

The vision does not even possess the sense of magic 
and mystery of twilight and gathering night. The 
universe is simply raw and wretched, with a wind 
scattering the refuse of the gutter, and, too hideous 
and grotesque even to evoke compassion, a few old 
tramps and forlorn children shivering in the cold. 

It was hecause we saw in Gissing's later works an 
escape from this insistent and hideous dream, a 
promise of a warmer, saner outlook upon human develop- 
ment and desire, that we felt as a kind of personal 
outrage the news of his early death. For skilled, 
artistic craftsmanship he held the first place in the ranks 
of the younger authors of to-day. He was only forty- 
six years old. The later books seemed to open possi- 
bilities of brilliant promise. The bitterness had become 
softened. The general protest against the sorry scheme 
of human things seemed to be passing into a kind of 
pity for all that suffers, and an acceptance with thank- 
fulness of life's little pleasures. The older indignation 
had yielded to perplexity as of a suffering child. With 
something of that perplexity with a new note of 
wistfulness, the sudden breaking of the springs of 
compassion George Gissing passes from a world of 
shadows which he found full of uncertainty and pain. 



HERBERT SPENCER tells, in his autobiography, 
how shortly after his migration to London George 
Henry Lewes took him to see a writer whose work he 
had already examined with interest. " My visits num- 
bered three," he notes, " or at the outside four, always 
in company with Lewes, and then I ceased to go. I 
found that I must either listen to his absurd dogmas in 
silence, which it was not in my nature to do, or get into 
fierce arguments with him, which ended in our glaring 
at one another. As the one alternative was impracticable 
and the other disagreeable, it resulted that I dropped 
the acquaintanceship." And Spencer goes on to com- 
plain of Carlyle that " he thought in a passion " (and, 
hence, could not be regarded as a philosopher, who, above 
all others, thinks calmly) ; that the " old Norse ferocity " 
was strong within him ; that he " lacked co-ordination 
alike intellectually and morally." " He had a daily 
secretion of curses which he had to vent on somebody 
or something." 

A verbatim report of these three or four meetings 
would prove to-day inimitable reading. For when Car- 
lyle and Spencer came together there was an encounter 
not only of two personalities but of two civilisations. 



Spencer exhibited a life, for perhaps the first time in 
history, entirely organised on a rational and scientific 
basis. Each separate action was referred to general 
laws. Guidance was sought in the complicated tangle 
of life not in any "venture of faith," still less in the 
commands of human emotion ; but in a codified system 
of evolutionary ethics, with a deliberate search for such 
elements of pleasure as could be obtained without inter- 
ference with the pleasure of others. In places this 
system of natural morality became as casuistical and 
exacting as any of the rules and systems of venial and 
mortal sins of the Catholic moralists. Spencer turned 
back upon past action directed towards a certain end to 
examine with an almost pathetic refinement whether as 
a matter of fact the end has been attained ; whether, 
for example, he had derived more happiness from billiards 
than might have been derived from other alternative 
occupation ; whether he was justified in the use of 
opium ; whether in his final examination of his whole 
life history he could pronounce, with some anticipation 
of an ultimate verdict of a Day of Judgment, that he had 
chosen aright in determining to devote his life to the cause 
of Evolution. He acknowledged a continuous tradition 
of Nonconformist upbringing and ancestry, with no cross- 
ing of the pure stock so that by inheritance he became 
the very incarnation of the " Dissidence of Dissent." 
This, overlaid with the inheritance of the " acquired 
characters " of three generations of schoolmasters, ex- 
plained sufficiently to himself the prevalence of those 
unamiable characteristics which he confessed with such 
naive simplicity. An aggressive disagreement with 
persons and accepted traditions, refusal always to 
brook contradiction, that inability to tolerate error in 
others which compelled him always to set them right 


when wrong, combined to make him a difficult person in 
society. "No one will deny," he said, "that I am 
much given to criticism. Along with exposition of my 
own views, there has always gone a pointing out of 
defects in the views of others." The "tendency to 
fault-finding is dominant disagreeably dominant." 
Such fault-finding, he dismally announced, had brought 
into his life a double loss on the one hand leading 
" to more or less disagreeableness in social inter- 
course "; on the other "it has partially debarred me 
from the pleasures of admiration by making me too 
much awake to mistakes and shortcomings." 

Carlyle's dissent from current opinion was, indeed, as 
intolerant and even louder- voiced ; but it was passionate 
instead of rational, and hence far easier to endure. All 
his opponents were consigned in storm to the nether pit. 
The extravagant ferocity of denunciation was streaked 
with gleams of wild humour revealing a human being, 
an inspired, wilful, petulant child. There was nothing 
of the child in Spencer. The fault-finding was thin- 
lipped, rational, probably in every case justified, and 
hence intolerable. Each of these men was the product 
of inherited traditions of belief and conduct : of traditions 
which regarded happiness as outside the legitimate 
objects of man's endeavour. When Spencer attempted 
to organise his life upon an hedonistic basis all these 
traditions, which had become part of the very fibre of his 
being, leapt upwards in protest and rendered the experi- 
ment a failure. He was ever asking himself, " what 
have been the motives prompting my career how much 
have they been egoistic and how much altruistic?" 
Caught in such cobwebs he painfully laboured through 
the whole catalogue ; examining in detail how far in 
controversy "the wish for personal success has gone 


along with the wish to establish the truth," and how far 
the one has predominated over the other ; or, whether 
he would have done better to marry ; or explaining 
how " in the kind of beneficence distinguishable as 
positive," the incentives " have been commonly neutra- 
lised by dislike to taking the requisite trouble." And 
every day as it passed became a subject of critical study 
and regret because it had gone charged with less positive 
pleasure than might have been. 

In the " reflections " at the end of the autobiography 
Spencer told of a chance incident of travel " in the days 
of my difficulties when compelled to travel in third-class 
carnages." " Opposite to me," he says, " sat a man who, 
at the time I first observed him, was occupied in eating 
food he had brought with him I should rather say 
devouring it, for his mode of eating was so brutish as to 
attract my attention and fill me with disgust, a disgust 
which verged into anger. Some time after, when he 
had finished his meal and become quiescent, I was 
struck by the woebegone expression of his face. Years 
of suffering were registered on it, and while I gazed on 
the sad eyes and deeply-marked lines I began to realise 
the life of misery through which he had passed. As I 
continued to contemplate the face, and to understand 
all which its expressions of distress implied, the pity 
excited in me went to the extent of causing that con- 
striction of the throat which strong feeling sometimes 

This extract might serve as a sample of the whole 
life history. The dispassionate pomposity of language, 
the dispassionate contemplation of his own emotions, 
the absorption first in the nature of the resonances 
and reactions produced by external events in the mind 
of the individual Herbert Spencer, accompanied by a 



detachment and cold criticism which frees such absorp- 
tion from any charge of selfishness such elements 
combined made of those thousand pages one of the 
most extraordinary of all human records. It would 
appear not impossible, indeed, that the author may 
be remembered for the personal history taken up in 
old age, and mainly to break the tedium of enforced 
idleness, long after the laborious constructions of the 
synthetic philosophy have become not only buried, but 

Much of the life reads like frank caricature, the kind 
of rather cruel satire that used to be written by Mr. 
Mallock in his younger days. The reference of each 
chance action to large principles, the humourless judg- 
ment of events, the laborious justification of fishing or 
billiards all these produce an effect which would be 
inexpressibly ludicrous but for the pathos of the whole 
affair. In the author's earlier years " there was no 
sign of marked liking for children," he says in his 
quaint, impersonal fashion. " My feeling was of a 
tepid kind." Late in life, in an existence "passed 
chiefly in bed and on the sofa, I one day, while think- 
ing over modes of killing time, bethought me that the 
society of children might be a desirable distraction." 
Children were demanded and children supplied. The 
result was " to awaken, in a quite unanticipated way, 
the philoprogenitive instinct," and the society of two 
little girls " afforded me a great deal of positive grati- 
fication." Henceforward " the presence of a pair of 
children, now from this family of the clan, and now from 
that, has formed a leading gratification I may say the 
chief gratification during each summer's sojourn in the 
country." Criticism is struck dumb by such entries as 
these. It is life organised on the system of the Data 



of Ethics and the millennium there preached; a man 
moving through the rich and passionate experience 
of to-day with complete obedience to a reasonable 
appeal : a kind of nightmare of an entirely rational 

One possible variation from such frantic sanity was 
rejected as soon as it was understood. Spencer de- 
scribes his early friendship with George Eliot, " the 
most admirable woman, mentally, I ever met." He 
took her to the opera and the theatre, where he had 
free admissions more used " because I had frequently 
indeed, nearly always the pleasure of her companion- 
ship, in addition to the pleasure afforded by the per- 
formance." He was then but thirty- two, and the 
philosophy had scarcely been projected. There were 
out-of-door walks, discussions on the terrace outside 
Somerset House. " People drew inferences." " Quite 
definite statements became current." " There were 
reports that I was in love with her, and that we were 
about to be married. But neither of these reports was 
true." In the reflections at the end, forty years after- 
wards, some indication of the reason was revealed. He 
had described in painful detail her actual physical 
appearance. " Usually heads have here and there 
either flat places or slight hollows : but her head was 
everywhere convex." He had once criticised a great 
beauty, alike in face and figure, " I do not quite like 
the shape of her head." " This abnormal tendency to 
criticise has been a chief factor," he sadly acknow- 
ledged, "in the continuance of my celibate life." 
" Physical beauty is a sine qua non for me ; as was 
once unhappily proved where the intellectual traits 
and the emotional traits were of the highest." 

Spencer's sturdy individualism produced a complete 


Disregard of authority, and that contempt or indif- 
ference for accepted opinion which was perhaps neces- 
sary for the elaboration of a new and unpopular 
philosophy. The extraordinary judgments on books 
and men scattered through the life are examples both 
of this waywardness and of that complete absence 
of moral fear which the author also recognised in him- 
self. Of Plato, "time after time I have attempted to 
read," he said, " and have put it down in a state of 
impatience with the indefiniteness of the thinking and 
the mistaking of words for things." " To call that a 
' dialogue,' " he added, with that disordered common- 
sense which was the curse of his existence, " which is 
an interchange of speeches between the thinker and his 
' dummy,' who says just what it is convenient to have 
said, is absurd." For Ballads with recurring burdens 
he felt " a kind of vicarious shame, at their inane 
repetition of an idea." Commencing Homer, " for the 
purpose of studying the superstitions of the early 
Greeks," after reading some six books he " felt what 
a task it would be to go on felt that I would rather 
give a large sum than read to the end." He found 
"the tedious enumerations of details of dresses and 
sums," the "boyish practice of repeating descriptive 
names," "the many absurdities, such as giving the 
genealogy of a horse while in the midst of battle," the 
"ceaseless repetition of battles and speeches" intoler- 
able. Delighted with the "Modern Painters," he 
opened the "Stones of Venice" with raised expecta- 
tions. " On looking at the illustrations, however, and 
reading the adjacent text, I presently found myself 
called upon to admire a piece of work which seemed 
to me sheer barbarism. My faith in Mr. Buskin's 
judgment was at once destroyed, and thereafter I paid 



no further attention to his writings than was implied by 
reading portions quoted in reviews or elsewhere." 

Such vigorous dismissal became more serious when 
the work was a piece of essential criticism in his own 
subject. Commencing the reading of Kant's critique, 
Spencer fell upon the proposition that " Time and 
space are nothing but subjective forms." This " I 
rejected at once and absolutely ; and having done so 
went no further." "It has always been out of the 
question for me to go on reading a book the funda- 
mental principle of which I entirely dissent from," 
owing to the "utter incredulity of the proposition 
itself" and "the want of confidence in the reason- 
ings, if any, of one who could accept a proposition so 
incredible." Kant was flung aside. " Whenever in 
later years I have taken up Kant's critique I have 
similarly stopped short after rejecting its primary pro- 
position." It is interesting to remember that two of 
the most influential minds of the nineteenth century, 
who, if not exactly philosophers, at least dealt largely 
with the subject-matter of philosophy the one from 
the side of theology, the other from that of the 
natural sciences had thus failed to read the work 
which has laid the foundation of all future speculation. 
If Newman had read Kant earlier in life or Spencer's 
impatience of absurdity had not prevented him from 
persevering in its study, both the theological and 
scientific progress, the " Oxford Movement " and the 
" New Reformation," might have been profoundly 

The actual effort demanded in the construction of the 
synthetic philosophy was nothing short of heroic. The 
struggle through so many years of neglect and failure, 
the persistence, through failing health, in poverty, at the 

81 G- 

cost of final nervous collapse, is an achievement for which 
the world is richer, which should go down to the future 
as one of the great triumphs of human resolution over 
circumstance. After the early years spent in engineer- 
ing invention and wanderings, Spencer felt the call to 
his life work. Intense mental strain at the age of thirty- 
five upon a constitution naturally neurotic he was the 
only surviving child of parents both of whom exhibited 
marked and painful mental derangement produced 
insomnia and mental disturbance, which lasted the 
remainder of his life. All excitement had to be avoided, 
correspondence declined, the working parts of life 
jealously guarded for the great undertaking. Many of 
the chapters were dictated at intervals of racquets or 
rowing, the only practicable method a quarter of an 
hour's exercise, then ten minutes' dictation, then exercise 

No less heroic was the long struggle for persistence 
against poverty. There is a letter written to John 
Stuart Mill inquiring concerning the possibility of a 
post at the India Office, which is almost elemental in 
its simplicity and dignity. " Unhappily my books have 
at present no adequate sale," writes the author. " Not 
only have they entailed upon me the negative loss of 
years spent without remuneration, but also a heavy 
positive loss in unrepaid expenses of publication. What 
little property I had has been thus nearly all dissipated. 
And now that I am more anxious than ever to persevere, 
it seems likely that I shall be unable to do so. My 
health does not permit me to spend leisure hours in 
these higher pursuits, after a day spent in remunerative 
occupation. And thus there appears no alternative but 
to desist." 

After an attempt to issue the books by subscription, 


the failure of adequate support again threatened abandon- 
ment. To prevent this Mill offered to guarantee the 
expenses of future publication and past losses " a 
simple proposition," as he termed it, " of co-operation 
for an important public purpose, for which you give 
your labour and have given your health." The letters 
in which this offer " a manifestation of feeling between 
authors that has rarely been paralleled " was made by 
Mill and declined by Spencer are permanent assets in 
the honourable record of literature. 

Eventually, partly through liberal support in America, 
partly through small inherited legacies, the work went 
on. " I am quite content to give my labour for nothing. 
I am content even to lose something by unrepaid costs 
of authorship. But it is clear that I shall not be able 
to bear the loss that now appears likely." Such were 
the efforts by which a philosophy not remote and 
difficult, but perhaps the most widely popular of all 
nineteenth-century expositions, could alone become 

The cost to its originator in vital power was irre- 
parable. At the end he discussed whether he had 
chosen well. Financially, " it was almost a miracle 
that I did not sink before success was reached." 
" One who devotes himself to grave literature must 
be content to remain celibate." "Adequate apprecia- 
tion of works not adapted to satisfy popular desires is 
long in coming, if it ever comes." Against such tardy 
recognition he set the exasperation of misstatement and 
the anger of threatened interests and offended prejudice. 
" Do I regret that I was not stopped by such dis- 
suasions ? " he mournfully asked. " I cannot say yes." 
So great was the impulse to proclaim the truth that any 
resistance would merely have produced " chronic irrita.- 



tion hardly to be borne." " Once having become 
possessed by the conception of evolution in its compre- 
hensive form, the desire to elaborate and set it forth 
was so strong that to have passed life in doing some- 
thing else would, I think, have been almost intolerable." 

To some, and especially to those hailing the synthetic 
philosophy as immortal, the triumph of the achievement 
may seem amply to compensate the ruin of its cost. 
I must confess a different impression. An enormous 
sadness broods over Spencer's life history. At the 
beginning are the shadowy recollections of ancestors, 
of hard, ioyless lives, whose ultimate impression 
is one of futility and failure. One grandfather 
appears as a gaunt, pitiful figure, whose mental decay 
"took the form of supposing that he had matters of 
business to look after, and led to rambles through the 
town with a vain desire to fulfil them." The other is 
" the image of a melancholy-looking old man sitting by 
the fireside, rarely saying anything and rarely showing 
any signs of pleasure." The substitution of a conscious 
creed of hedonism for the stern Puritan survey of life 
seemed to bring but little benefit to their descendant. 
All through happiness proves elusive : the secret of 
well-being is not apprehended ; the sense of failure and 
baffled purposes is written large over the whole story. 
At one period all his friends urged him to marry as a 
remedy for his nervous affections. " Ever since I was 
a boy," he sorrowfully writes, " I have been longing to 
have my affections called out. I have been in the habit 
of considering myself but half alive, and have often said 
that I hoped to begin to live some day." 

That "some day" never arrived. To the end exis- 
tence was woven in a kind of bloodless scheme of moral 
principle, with the changes rung on egoistic and altruistic 



impulse ; as divorced from the life of men who love 
and hunger and desire, as the vision of the under- 
world of the Greek hereafter to those who shivered 
at its advent. In the later years the fame of Herbert 
Spencer has gone out through all lands. Him- 
self, an old man, wearied, and much concerned with 
his maladies, is passing to his grave amid mournful 
memories. For a few minutes in the morning he can 
dictate perhaps half a page of his biography. " Through 
the rest of the day the process of killing time has to be 
carried on as best it may." Walking has to be re- 
stricted to a few hundred yards ; reading of the lightest 
kind proves as injurious as working ; conversation has 
to be kept within narrow bounds ; recreation is im- 
possible, " two games of backgammon" having " caused 
a serious relapse." At night, in spite of the use of 
opium, there is never a full, continuous sleep. "No 
ingenuity," was his pathetic summary, "can prevent 

All outside the tangible, material universe had been 
rejected at the beginning, and rejected almost without a 
pang ; relegated to the region of the Unknowable and 
seemingly left there without any further interest or con- 
cern. Keligion never left him because it never came 
to him. " Memory does not tell me the extent of my 
divergence from current beliefs," he here confesses. 
" The ' creed of Christendom ' was evidently alien to 
my nature, both emotional and intellectual. The ex- 
pressions of adoration of a personal being, the utterance 
of laudations, and the humble professions of obedience, 
never found in me any echoes." Early he wrote, "We 
cannot know " over all the ultimate questions of the 
Universe ; and, with his entirely reasonable mind, de- 
clined any further to trouble himself about them. 



Occasionally, as when after his only game of golf with 
Huxley, he sees some boys bathing and wonders how 
such a creature as man has attained such dominance 
over the beasts of the field, some of the disordered and 
inexplicable things of life strike his fancy. But for the 
most part that sense of incongruity which is the founda- 
tion of humour was absent ; wanting not only in the 
pleasant fancies of verbal play but in the large and 
fundamental ironies of things which form the soul of 
tragedy. To a mind so entirely synthetic the universe 
came to arrange itself in relations, cubes, and parallels, 
an orderly framework ; and the elements which would 
not fit into this definite scheme of cause and effect were 
quietly dropped out of sight. Even the great bereave- 
ments common to the lot of man awaken no sense of 
deeper meanings or clamorous, unanswered questionings. 
After the death of his mother the loss which he seemed 
to have felt most deeply he laments, with sorrow but 
with a reasoned outlook, a life " of monotonous routine, 
very little relieved by positive pleasure." The utmost 
he will allow is regret for " the dull sense of filial 
obligations which exist at the time when it is possible 
to discharge them, contrasted with the keen sense of 
them which arises when such discharge is no longer 
possible." Some natural tears he shed, but dried them 
soon ; convincing himself, with more success than the 
philosopher in " Rasselas," of the folly of grieving over 
irrevocable things. 

Only at the end, when he is suddenly confronted 
with the brooding menace of death, does he realise 
the fact that beyond the evolutionary scheme were 
strange unfathomed possibilities, that the reason of man 
was but a tiny rushlight in an immense solitude, a 
plumb-line swung into the midst of an unbounded deep. 



With Tennyson, he tremhles before a vision of Vastness, 
the abysm strewn with stars and the great cold beyond 
their transitory flames. He gazes back into a waste of 
time, forward into a future like a shoreless sea. He 
can make no meaning of the world itself, the strange 
life spreading in the depths of ocean, the thousand 
types which have for ever gone. The insistent query 
haunts him, " To what end ? " Along with this is 
the paralysing thought, " What if of all this thus in- 
comprehensible to us there exists no comprehension 
anywhere." Suddenly he finds a new sympathy 
awakened within him towards the adherents of the 
religions which he had formerly despised ; seeing these, 
as it were, the gathering of men together for warmth 
and companionship in the darkness of space, and the 
silence. "Keligious creeds" so he concludes his 
astonishing narrative " I have come to regard with 
a sympathy based on community of need ; feeling that 
dissent from them results from inability to accept the 
solutions offered, joined with the wish that solutions 
could be found." 

In the life of Carlyle we are breathing an entirely 
different atmosphere. The contrast cuts deep into the 
basis of being. Spencer is devoted above all things 
to liberty as an end. "As if it were a sin to control, 
or coerce into better methods human swine in any 
way," is Carlyle's scornful comment upon reading 
Mill's defence of the same position. Spencer again 
is at the heart of the scientific movement, the "New 
Eeformation," which was to create new heavens and 
a new earth. " Can you really turn a ray of light on 
its axis by magnetism?" Carlyle shouts scornfully; 
"and if you could, what should I care?" Beyond 



these questions of opinion is the fundamental divergence 
in the outlook upon experience and its meaning. If 
Spencer's life was maimed by a too complete limitation 
to the things which are seen, Carlyle's was troubled by 
too insistent apprehension of the Unseen Universe. In 
an entry in his journal he describes how " I have been 
at Mrs. Austin's, heard Sydney Smith for the first time 
guffawing, other persons prating, jargoning. To me, 
through these thin cobwebs, Death and Eternity sate 
glaring." And the Vision of Death and Eternity, 
glaring through all that travail of eighty years, was 
not conducive to tranquillity. 

In one of his letters Carlyle tells how, after a period 
of severe mental strain, he rode down solitary into 
Sussex: through "the Norman Conqueror's country," 
the " green chalk hills, pleasant villages, good people, 
and yellow corn." "It is all, in my preternatural 
sleepless mood," he writes, "like a country of miracle 
to me. I feel it strange that it is there, that I am here." 
The sentence might stand for the secret of that 
violent life. The record is of one moving through 
a drowsy world in a " preternatural sleepless mood"; 
and the nineteenth century, however to the dulled 
eye mechanical and grey, is to this man always " a 
country of miracle." The sense of magic, of en- 
chantment, hangs over the whole history. The present, 
so mean as it appears and so commonplace, has become 
transfigured with something of a glory only in general 
realised when that present has become the past and to- 
day has consented to be yesterday. The world of Nature 
is everywhere charged with glamour, silences and 
appeals which awaken emotion beyond the power of 
words. The world of man, the turmoil of politics 
and society chatter, is stricken through with the 



sense of great issues and a purpose beyond time. The 
humble society of peasants living obscurely in remote 
regions, the deaths and births and affections which form 
the common lot of common humanity, are illuminated 
with colours which are the stuff of dreams, and set in a 
background of all the Eternities. 

It is this transformation of the drab things of to-day 
which gives this man his power of fascination and 
wonder. In the letters is the real Carlyle : the man in 
his true self: " a wild man," as he describes himself, 
"a man disunited from the fellowship of the world he 
lives in." It is a life lived at a furnace heat of emotion, 
extravagant in laughter, in affection, in denunciation. 
He passes from a ferocity of contempt or an uncontrolled, 
shaggy humour, to outbreaks of appealing and mournful 
beauty. He beholds always good and evil visibly at 
death grips in the lives of men. Like his own favourite 
hero, he has enough fire within him to burn up the 
sins of the whole world. Consumed with a continuous 
restlessness, he is ever seeking quiet. " Learn to 
sit still, I tell you : how often must I tell you," he 
breaks out. "I persist in my old determination to be 
at rest," he declares again and again. " God help us 
all!" "God be merciful!" "As God lives I am 
weary ! " these are his constant burden. " Solitude 
is indeed sad as Golgotha ; but it is not mad like 
Bedlam ! " The world of wild warfare came more and 
more to be contrasted with a future beyond the storms 
of time. " We have hope through our Maker's good- 
ness," he writes to his mother, "of a time that shall 
be always calm weather." " The soul that has been 
devoutly loyal to the Highest," he cries again, "that 
soul has the eternal privilege to hope. For good is 
appointed it, and not evil, as God liveth." The best 



good for one so fire-tost and tormented is rest ; " such 
rest as God's holy will has appointed, and as no man 

Such thoughts were the only consolation after each 
outburst of astonished anger at the madness of men. 
"Poor Protectionists," he flared forth after the Disraeli 
Budget of 1851, " there never were men so ' sold ' 
since Judas concluded his trade." " This Jew, how- 
ever, will not hang himself ; no, I calculate he has a 
great deal more of evil work to do in the world yet, if 
he lives." " Whatever British infatuation has money 
in its purse, votes in its pocket, and no tongue in its 
head, here is the man to he a tongue for it." Imme- 
diately he turns from such a ravening spectacle to that 
eternity which was ever his "strong tower." "The 
day is drawing down (with the generation I belong to), 
and the tired labourers one by one are going home. 
There is rest there, I believe, for those who could never 
find any before. God is great. God is good." 

All his letters are crowded with those verdicts on 
men which read so ferociously, whose first publica- 
tion scared the company of Carlyle worshippers, and 
tumbled to pieces the monstrous image they had 
erected of the Apostle of Silence. Beneath the Carlyle 
charged with a cold, intellectual restraint, weighing his 
words, preaching endurance and an austere, ethical 
creed a lath-and-plaster figure the real man is 
emerging ; infinitely more human, infinitely more 
lovable ; lacking, above all things, restraint, seeing the 
better course, but unable to follow it, violent, with 
fierce affection, drawing deep and fiercely the outlines 
and shadows of things. The prim moralist is offended 
at the reckless scattering of contemptuous and fiery 
judgments. Only those who have some similarity of 



temperament, who are accustomed to speak and think 
in superlatives, will understand the spirit in which these 
verdicts are cast forth ; understanding, they will refuse 
to condemn. 

There is a wild humour about him, a mingling of 
denunciation with a kind of elemental laughter, in 
which the bitterness is dissolved. After reading a 
Quarterly attack on Kingsley and Maurice, "very 
beggarly Crokerism," " no viler mortal," Carlyle 
suddenly ejaculated, "calls himself man than old 
Croker at this time." " One Merivale " attacked him 
in a review. " He is a slight, impertinent man," was 
Carlyle's comment, " with good Furnival's Inn faculty, 
with several dictionaries and other succedanea about 
him small knowledge of God's universe as yet, and 
small hope of now getting much." Of the theory of 
life of this economist " it struck me I had never seen in 
writing so entirely damnable a statement." "It is to 
me not a sorrowful prognostic," he concluded, " that 
the day of that class of politicians does in all ways draw 
towards its close." 

Others who had not thus the temerity deliberately to 
draw upon themselves the lightning of the gods were 
not spared. Of Jowett, " a poor little good-humoured 
owlet of a body " was the verdict, " ' Oxford Liberal,' 
and very conscious of being so : not knowing right hand 
from left otherwise. Ach Gott ! " Of Palmerston, " a 
tall man, with some air of greediness and cunning," was 
the unflattering description, " and a curious fixed smile 
as if lying not at the top, but at the bottom of his 
physiognomy." The worthy philanthropists of the 
forties became "scraggy critics of the 'benevolent' 
school." Louis Philippe was dismissed with con- 
temptuous pity : "I begin to be really sorry for him, 



poor old scoundrel." "An old man now, and has not 
learned to be an honest man he learns, or may learn, 
that the cunuingest knavery will not serve one's turn 
either." The " Bentham Radical Sect " were treated 
to a crescendo of vituperation till they were finally dis- 
missed as " wretched, unsympathetic, scraggy Atheism 
and Egoism," which Nature will never make " fruitful 
in her world." "Enough, thou scraggy Atheism; go 
thy ways, wilt thou ! " 

But there were enthusiasms for famous men no less 
superlative ; in addition to that continual flow of un- 
clouded family affection, the love of the clan, of the 
peasant for the peasant family; above all the whole- 
hearted elemental devotion of the son for the mother 
who bore him, which illuminates all the violent and 
passionate correspondence of nearly fifty years. In a 
memorable letter to Browning, " You seem to possess a 
rare spiritual gift," is the generous tribute, " poetical, 
pictorial, intellectual, by whatever name we may prefer 
calling it." " Persist in God's name, as you best see 
and can, and understand always that my true prayer for 
you is, good speed in the name of God." There was 
often a touching gratitude for favours given, a surprise 
at the toleration extended by " people in the highest 
degree zealous to accommodate the surprising monster 
who has been stranded among them." " Kindness is 
frequent in this world," he declared in a sudden 
quietude, "if we reckon upward from zero (as were 
fair), not downwards from infinity ; and always very 
precious, the more so the rarer." 

Carlyle saw with the eye of the mystic, the eye 
of the prophet. Common things lost their hard 
outlines. The world appeared as a procession of 
spectres and shadows. Again and again he cried 



that man is of the substance of dreams, and his little 
life is rounded with a sleep. " The dead seem as 
much my companions as the living," he asserted in 
one letter. " Death as much present with me as 
life." Sometimes the effect was ridiculous. The Devil 
visibly walks in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, inspiring the 
unspeakable fowls of his neighbours to crow lustily in 
the morning, or stimulating the thirst for gin of the 
harassed domestics. More frequently, however, the 
vision closes in splendour. The things of the present 
are charged with the sense of mystery. The homely 
virtues and affections of the Carlyle clan are carried 
into a region of high emotion. The chatter and gossip 
of society are seen but as a flickering candle flame in 
the great red glare of sunrise. And in each successive 
bereavement Carlyle is caught up into regions of mystic 
sorrow and rejoicing, " a sacredness that led one beyond 

Each obscure human life was for him a matter of 
infinite import. London, as he looked down on it from 
the Surrey hills, " its smoke rising like a great dusky- 
coloured mountain, melting into the infinite clear sky," 
became a meeting-place of Eternities in the " ever- 
flowing stream of life and death." In the graveyard 
of the dead, where " they all lay so still and dumb, 
those that were once so blithe and quick at sight of us ; 
gathered to their sleep under the long grass," the old 
man " could not forbear a kind of sob, like a child's, 
out of my old worn heart, at first sight of all this." 
Read if you can without emotion the letter, magnificent 
in its simplicity, in which Carlyle describes to his 
brother in Canada the last days and death of his 
mother. It is the end of an obscure life, full of toils 
and sorrows ; the dust returning to the earth, as it was, 



through that last indignity which is the common lot 
of man. But to the eyes of one watching with a 
love unconquered by the fretfulness of time, the voyage 
of this humble soul " through the gloomy clouds of 
death " was charged with a solemn splendour and 
triumph. All the mystery of the greatness of human 
existence gathered round the moment of the passing 
into eternity of the spirit, returning to the God who 
gave it. 

The man to whom each solitary life was thus so 
sacred had the faith at bottom which alone can con- 
secrate all human progress. He had, indeed, no certain 
solution of ultimate mysteries. But he refused to put 
them aside. " God is great ! God is good ! " is his 
continual burden ; " there remaineth a rest," his per- 
petual prayer. " The ruins of time build the mansions 
of Eternity " is the one sustaining hope with the passing 
of the years. And all his longing goes out towards a 
meeting with those whom he loved, now so quiet, in 
" the Silent Kingdoms " where all that troubled the lot 
of man " shall there be without the walls for evermore." 

In such a contrast between the mystic and the man of 
science is summed up much of the hunger and disturbance 
of an age. Spencer's story of his existence is like the 
even passage of a still and cloudy day. The hours pass 
with scarcely perceptible change. There is a light in 
the sky, dull, if cold and clear, slowly fading with the 
coming of the night. Carlyle's life-history is like a day 
of perpetual unrest. There is the flare of the dawn 
with sunshine succeeding; and thunder-clouds roll up 
in tempest with lightning and storm ; and the clouds 
are torn apart for a moment, revealing the blue sky 
beyond ; and the sun sets in crimson and yellow light, 



with a menace of disquietude still on the horizon, rain 
and moaning wind, when darkness suddenly blots out 
the whole troubled scene. 

The one story ends in a vision of desolation. An irony 
worthy of an ancient and tragic fate compelled the man 
who, more than any previous thinker, had fashioned his 
action upon rational and consistent ends, most com- 
pletely to acknowledge failure. The conscious search for 
the prize resulted in the cry that the prize had somehow 
eluded the seeker ; and the neglect of all irrational 
things love and human comradeship, the larger 
emotions, patriotism, and the losing of self in an ideal 
cause evolved but the old cry of weariness, and the 
failure of orderly life to satisfy man's desires and his 

The other, from the heart of uncertainty and storm, 
under the purple sky and sunset, lifts up his hope 
triumphant above the things of time, sure in the 
consummation of the victory and the abiding rest 
beyond. " It was the Most High God that made 
mothers," he testifies, " and the sacred affection of 
children's hearts ; yes, it was He : and shall it not, in 
the end, be all well : on this side of death, or beyond 
death ? We will pi-ay once more from our inmost heart 
if we can, ' Our Father which art in Heaven, Thy will 
be done ' ! " 

" Alas ! the inexorable years," he cries, " that cut 
away from us, one after another, the true souls whom 
we loved, who loved us truly, that is the real bitterness 
of life." " How could one live," he had before written, 
"if it were not for Death?" "We ourselves, my 
friend" this is his conclusion of the whole matter "it 
is not long we have to stay behind ; we, too, shall find a 
shelter in the Silent Kingdoms ; and much Despicability 



that barked and snarled incessantly round us here shall 
there be without the walls for evermore. Blessed are the 
Dead. . . . God is great, say the Moslems; to which 
we add only, God is Good ; and have not, nor ever shall 
have, any more to say." 

So in faith and perplexity, the one with an unanswered 
question on his lips, the other with the great longing in 
his heart still unsatisfied, these two men went down into 
darkness : and the grasses blow above their graves. 


OF all the memorable comparisons in history, in which 
two men of supreme talent have been exhibited 
struggling through a lifetime for the triumph of conflicting 
ideals, none will stand in history more illuminating 
than that of Disraeli and Gladstone. The superficial 
contrast has been a thousand times emphasised. But 
the material is now for the first time available which 
can enable the reader to penetrate beneath the surface 
show. All the accidents of birth, fortune, and educa- 
tion vanish ; and we enter those innermost recesses of 
man's being which all men hide from the multitude, 
in which the soul, stripped of the illusions of market- 
place and arena, is confronted only with itself and with 

The careers of Disraeli and Napoleon HE. are the two 
great romances of the nineteenth century. Each seemed 
for all the earlier time "impossible." Each at the 
beginning absurdly failed. Disraeli became the laugh- 
ing-stock of England, Napoleon the laughing-stock of 
Europe. The grotesque invasions at Strasburg and 
Boulogne seemed to certify an enduring collapse to the 

97 H 


one. Sydney Smith has described the first appearance 
of the other at Taunton, and how he was called the Old 
Clothes Man by the children and pelted with slippers, 
and finally driven out in contempt. But each, confident 
in his genius and his star, pressed right onward, and 
each attained such dazzling success as must have 
excelled even his wildest dreams. The career of both 
was closed in eclipse and ruin. Both were assailed with 
such ferocity of vituperation as only falls to the few 
really great. And both, when all is over, have secured 
disciples essaying to erect an image of benevolence and 
moral earnestness images which would have astonished 
the men who, however self deceived at the last, would 
never have mistaken these ungainly creations for por- 
traits of themselves. 

Disraeli's career was " a romance of the will that 
defies circumstance, and moulds the soil where ideas 
are to flourish." In the strange figure at the end 
as depicted by one of his admirers could be read 
all the history of the past. " Few who gazed 
on that drawn countenance," says Mr. Sichel, "could 
have discerned in it the poetry and enthusiasm of his 
prime : only the unworn eyes preserved their piercing 
fires, and the sunken jaw was still masterful. A long 
discipline of iron self-control, much disillusion, growing 
disappointments with crowning triumphs, and latterly a 
great desolation, had subdued the fiercer force and the 
elastic buoyancy of his heyday. Yet the intellectual 
charm, and the spell of mind and spirit had deepened 
their outward traces. Fastidious discernment, dis- 
passionate will, penetrating insight, courage, patience, 
a certain winning gentleness underneath the scorn of 
shams, stamp every lineament." 

"He was truly unselfish, and he was never known to 


blame a subordinate." "In two things only he was 
profuse books and light." Unlike his great rival in 
this as in so many other characteristics, he was "utterly 
careless of money." "Like childless men in general, 
he was devoted to children." " He was a firm friend: 
loyalty he always extolled as a sovereign virtue." " If 
he was always ' the man of destiny/ he was also ever 
' faithful unto death.' ' "Of music and art he was a 
devotee." " In matters of courtesy he was old-fashioned 
and punctilious." "The common and the uncommon 
people fascinated him, for in them he found ideas: the 
middling charmed him less." 

In the world outside also, that austere, pitiless, senti- 
mental England of the mid-century, he was ever on 
the side of kindness and compassion. He possessed 
strong sympathy with labour and the sufferings of the 
poor. "He foresaw the overcrowding of huge cities 
through the waste of the soil with all its attendant 
miseries." With Ruskin he asserted that the English 
poor " compared with the privileged of their own land 
are in a lower state than any other population compared 
with its privileged classes." He was "prouder of his 
many social reforms than of his Berlin Treaty." "What 
he specially sought to mitigate was irresponsible Pluto- 

The verdict of history will probably endorse Lord 
Acton's judgment upon Disraeli. " The man was more 
reputable than his party." He led them first by grati- 
fying their hatreds, later by stimulating their hopes. He 
led them through strange ways, but ultimately into the 
promised land. 

The attempt, indeed, to prove that he was " con- 
sistent " throughout all his political career, that he 
was not " an adventurer," that his only motive was 



the advancement of high moral causes, is an attempt 
compared to which the rehabilitations of Richard Crook- 
back and John Lackland were but trifles. No one doubts 
Disraeli's greatness ; no one seriously imagines this 
greatness to be in the region of morality. His career is a 
study for the admirer of a great enterprise conducted 
through a lifetime with extraordinary tenacity and 
courage. It is an asset for the cynic, the historian, the 
detached observer of the absurd comedy of human life ; 
not, surely, for the moralist. The attitude of his 
admirers is more likely to be that of Mr. Swinburne in 
his protest against the whitewashing of Mary Queen of 
Scots. " Surely you were something better than 
innocent ? " Disraeli knew his world, " the islanders," 
as one of his biographers pleasantly terms them ; and 
he knew himself. He had the power of those who have 
stripped themselves of all illusions, swallowed all 
formulas. He posed, and every one laughed at him; 
but step by step he succeeded in deceiving first his party, 
then his country, finally himself. 

In such a survey, the superficial inconsistencies are 
negligible. Whether at first he appeared as a Tory or 
a Radical seems entirely irrelevant. Both opinions 
were quite reconcilable with his after-life. He hated 
the Whigs and the great houses who were excluding 
such as he from politics. He hated the middle classes, 
the Nonconformists. Above all, he hated that strenuous 
assertion of moral ideals which always seemed to him 
cant, which was to gather under the leadership of his 
great opponent and overthrow him at the last. He 
knew mid-century England as few others knew it. His 
novels, despite their absurdity and their bizarre, fantastic 
language, remain the most illuminating commentaries 
upon the changes which this England was undergoing, to 


which the many were so blind. Against these middle 
classes he apprehended, with the insight of genius and 
the detachment of the alien, there could he united the 
old English families from above and the populace from 
below. The Reform Act of '67, denounced as a 
betrayal, was merely an attempt practically to realise 
this conviction. 

His policy was justified by its success. The force 
of moral earnestness and enthusiasm was the one 
force he could never understand. " I have been induced 
to analyse what ' moral ' means are," he once said ; 
" first, enormous lying ; second, inexhaustible boasting ; 
third, intense selfishness." This solitary mistake ended 
his career in apparent ruin. Undoubtedly had he made 
an adequate estimate of the power of moral enthusiasm, 
he would have adjusted his policy to its demands, and 
used it for his own aims. 

But his success was never more apparent than after 
his death. He became a cult and a great memory. 
The romance of his marvellous career became magnified 
by time. His policy of uniting the gentlemen of Eng- 
land and the democracy which loves a lord against the 
manufacturers and middle classes prospered exceedingly. 
Other men entered into the heritage he bequeathed to 
them ; and England settled down with satisfaction at the 
end of the century under the Tory reaction for which 
he had worked with such unparalleled ardour and 

In this he was true to his own ideas, and true to 
the interests of the class who cried out that he had 
betrayed them. The most vehement opponents of th 
Franchise Bill of '67, such as the late Lord Salisbury, 
were those who lived to reap the great reward of the 
policy which they had denounced. Without this 



alliance the Conservative party were doomed to an 
everlasting sterility. With it they ruled England for 
seventeen out of the last twenty-five years of the 
nineteenth century. For such a transformation they 
have to thank this " alien adventurer " whom they never 
entirely trusted. 

They might, indeed, have remained in power for 
decades to come if they could have learnt the lesson he 
had tried to teach them : to press forward Social 
Reforms, to demonstrate aristocracy as the true and 
disinterested leaders of the people : in ruling, to give all 
that the people would themselves demand if they them- 
selves were in power. In Ireland he would have effected 
by English legislation all the reforms that an Irish 
Parliament could have effected for herself. At home, he 
would have pushed forward his "policy of sewage," 
persistently striven for better houses, better wages, 
shorter hours, a humaner life for the working population. 
He would have given everything except liberty : for he 
was shrewd enough to know that when everything which 
liberty demands is given, the demand for liberty itself 
becomes suddenly silent. 

Secure in the triumph achieved by his policy the 
Conservative party have repudiated the principles by 
which that triumph was attained. If the coming 
collapse of the Tory Government in England will 
mark the end not only of a party but of an epoch, 
the future will but justify Disraeli's prophecies alike of 
success and failure. And if once more the party which 
calls itself " Liberal " enters upon power, it will be 
because in adversity that party has learnt on the one 
hand to forget many of the ideas whose inherent weak- 
ness Disraeli descried ; on the other, to remember that 
forces more vital than the middle-class individualism of 



the mid- Victorian period are necessary for the healing 
of the diseases of a newer England. 

In face of so magnificent a spectacle as Disraeli's 
success, why arouse needless controversy, we may ask, 
by attempting to drag in something so irrelevant as 
questions of political morality ? "I confess to be 
unrecognised at this moment by you," Disraeli writes to 
Sir Robert Peel in 1841 " appears to me to be over- 
whelming, and I appeal to your own heart to that justice 
and that magnanimity which I feel are your characteristics 
to save me from an intolerable humiliation." " Do 
not destroy all his hopes," Mrs. Disraeli added, " and 
make him feel his life has been a mistake." Five 
years after, when reminded of this by Sir Robert Peel, 
" I can say I never asked a favour of the Government," 
he calmly informed the House of Commons, " not even 
one of those mechanical things which persons are 
obliged to ask : yet these assertions were always made 
in that way, though I never asked a favour; and as 
regards myself, I never, directly or indirectly, solicited 

Biographers have been concerned to explain this 
incident in a thousand impossible apologies. It is 
warmly asserted that Disraeli's bitter attacks upon Sir 
Robert Peel were not directed by personal revenge for 
the rejection of his application. No one now imagines 
such an explanation. Disraeli was after too high stakes 
to be turned aside by anything so petty as personal 
revenge. He attacked Peel because with the eye of 
genius he saw that Peel's desertion of the country party 
gave him the opportunity for which he had waited half 
a lifetime. It was the direct way to the hearts of 
the " gentlemen of England " bursting with inarticulate 
fury, and welcoming with eagerness their spokesman as 



their leader. One can regard with admiration the 
imperturbable courage and audacity with which he threw 
down this challenge to Peel. "In the small hours of 
the morning following the debate," Peel " was fishing in 
a sea of papers for Disraeli's letter," which he could not 
find. Perhaps had he found it the history of England 
might have been changed. There is no need to attempt 
elaborate explanation of forgotten memory or momentary 
madness in this particular incident of a career which 
never pretended to acknowledge the impeding limitations 
of the accepted moral standards. 

To any detached observer of an imaginary Gerolstein 
the career is one prolonged miracle. Even with a con- 
sciousness of the ruin effected, it is almost impossible 
not to cheer the onward advance. At the beginning, 
"looking like Gulliver among the Liliputians" suffering 
from chronic dyspepsia, he appears on the political 
arena "devoured by ambition I did not see any means 
of gratifying." He was an alien, without money, with- 
out friends ; obviously to the great families of England 
an adventurer ; impossible. At the end he has broken 
the charmed circle, penetrated to the centre, bent the 
great families of England to his will. He drives them 
unresisting along roads they dread, towards ends they 
cannot foresee. He has become the idol of the 
aristocracy. He is the intimate friend of the Queen. 
Finally, for one intoxicating moment, he stands in the 
full gaze of the world, Dictator of Europe. 

One half of the mind refuses to acquiesce. It sees the 
lowering of public life, the unscrupulous manipulation 
of ideal causes to forward one individual ambition; the 
flattery, the adroitness, the despising of men. Estimated 
now as if a long time ago and far away the playing upon 
pettiness and silly ambition appears the work of one 



who, in Mr. Bryce's words, "watched English life and 
politics as a student of natural history might watch the 
habits of bees or ants." The critic apprehends the 
dire consequences of this theatrical display. Modern 
Jingoism is one of them, which has poisoned the springs. 
Another is the ruin of the Christians of the East. 
Here is a heavy price to pay for the set limelight scene 
of "Peace with honour." 

But the other half of the mind is with him through it 
all. We applaud in whole-hearted fashion the spirit, 
the pluck, the unconquerable will and determination. 
We rejoice with almost a personal triumph as the long, 
seemingly so hopeless, efforts of thirty years terminate 
in the attainment of the desired goal. 

And, indeed, something more reputable remains. 
Outside the " game " of politics there was much 
altogether admirable. He was a dutiful son, an 
affectionate brother. He showed a real kindness to 
friends ; a certain magnanimity. The never-wavering 
gratitude to his wife for her whole-hearted devotion 
illuminates this strange character with tenderness and 
emotion. Above all, we owe him a certain cynical 
sincerity very useful for " islanders," one of whose 
characteristics is an unparalleled power of self-deception. 
" Lying is a crime only where it is a cruelty." " When 
I meet a man whose name I have utterly forgotten, I 
say, ' And how is the old complaint ? '" "No dogmas, 
no Deans." In country houses "their table talk is 
stable talk." " They think it the battle of Armaged- 
don : let us go to lunch." "I am never well save in 
action, and then I feel immortal." These and similar 
sayings have become part of the current coin of 
England's worldly wisdom. 

" Every one knows the steps of a lawyer's career he 


tries in turn to get on, to get honours, to get honest. 
This one (of a certain Lord Chancellor) edits hymns 
instead of briefs, and beginning by cozening juries he 
compounds with heaven by cramming children in a 
Sunday school." 

There is a real pathos about the end, the pathos 
which shrouds the end of all great actors. The play 
is nearly played. The harsh world of reality can no 
longer be kept out of the kingdom of fantasy and 
illusion. Like another great actor, Chateaubriand, he 
has " seen so many phantoms defile through the 
dream of life." " Yes, but it has come too late," was 
the reply to congratulation on the great triumph. " I 
am so blind ; I come here : I look round : I see no 
one : I go away." " Never defend me," was his last 

His definition of the most desirable life as " a con- 
tinued grand procession from manhood to the tomb " 
had been abundantly realised. " He faced the facts of 
life," said one who loved him, " psychological and 
spiritual, gravely, I had almost said sorrowfully : he 
faced them compassionately." " I had rather live," he 
asserted at the end; " but I am not afraid to die." His 
verdict upon one of the characters of his creation is 
perhaps the last word upon his own intimate soul, the 
self which withdrew so securely from the madness of 
life's fitful fever : " What they called reality appeared 
to him more vain and nebulous than the scenes and 
sights of sleep." 


Mr. Morley's great life and the Acton letters 
have revealed now for the judgment of the sympathiser 



and the cynic the springs of action of Gladstone's 
vast and complex character. Behind all the panorama 
of the outward show, the concern which for most men is 
all the world and its desires, stands that " heart of 
fire " whose history forms one of the most fascinating 
chapters in the story of men of renown. 

" Not for two centuries," says his biographer, " since 
the historic strife of Anglican and Puritan, had our 
island produced a ruler in whom the religious motive 
was paramount to a like degree." Later, as earlier, 
there is the revelation of the inner life : an inner life 
" maintained in all its absorbing exaltation day after 
day, year after year, amid the ever- swelling rush of 
urgent secular affairs." 

" Not a devotional child," this " great Christian ' 
described himself. " The planks between me and all 
the sins were so very thin." " The inner life has been 
with me extraordinarily dubious, vacillating, and, above 
all, complex," is his confession at the end. All the 
early years were spent in that rigorous, narrow, evan- 
gelical piety which fashioned the characters of most of 
the great men of nineteenth-century England. At 
Oxford he is organising prayer-meetings. When 
twenty-three years old he is refusing race-meetings 
and theatres as involving an encouragement of sin. 
In the early years of London life he is leading the 
limited and austere life of this bleak tradition. At first 
he cannot believe in liberty, and is bitterly hostile to 
atheists. As late as 1836 he is tormented with doubts 
as to whether a Unitarian can be saved. There is one 
characteristic scene in his biography, in which " I had 
my servant to prayers " before breakfast, and Words- 
worth, who has come as a guest, obligingly makes a 
third. He is a member of a brotherhood formed by 


Acland, with rules for systematic exercises of devotion 
and works of mercy. Amidst much that is inspiring 
there is much also that is tortuous and almost morbid 
in these earlier self-examinations and prim rules of 
conduct. " My inherited and bigoted misconceptions," 
he afterwards came to call them. He has not yet 
escaped from the stifling conception of a very limited 
salvation to the larger and freer atmosphere of a Catholic 

The change, when it came, seems to have been en- 
tirely independent of the great spiritual upheaval at 
Oxford. Quite suddenly, upon his first visit to Rome, 
the sight of St. Peter's aroused a longing for a visible 
unity of the Church. " The figure of the Church rose 
before me as a teacher," in addition to the Bible, 
hitherto the sole guide. The old cramping barriers 
gave way. A world vision of a vast society and fellow- 
ship, divinely ordered and guided for the salvation of 
the world, never afterwards left his mind. Hence- 
forth, amid " the sublime and sombre anarchy of human 
history," he beheld, says Mr. Morley, a Church 
Catholic and Apostolic, with " its ineffable and mys- 
terious graces " and its " incommeasurable spiritual 
force" an immense mystery. "This is the enigma, 
and this the solution in faith and spirit, in which 
Gladstone lived and moved. In him it gave to the 
energies of life their meaning, and to duty its foun- 

But a principle which Oxford failed to teach her 
children was already commencing to work. ' ' The 
value of liberty as an essential condition of excellence 
in human things ' ' was to unite with this passionate 
devotion to a Catholic Church, and prove the thread 
to that labyrinth of policy which made Gladstone 



through all his career the most perplexing of states- 
men to his generation. It was to undermine and 
east aside all those frameworks of compulsions of 
which in the early days he was so determined an 
advocate. It led him into the tearing down of an 
Anglican Establishment, the abolition of Church rates 
and Church tests, and all the policy of liberality and 
liberation with which his name will be associated 
through all future time. Everything had changed at 
the end but his religious ideas. His earlier dogmatisms 
and disquietudes crumbled into dust as the years went 
by. But the deep bedrock beliefs of his nature in God 
and the soul and an immortal life remained always 
abiding and secure. " The fundamentals of the 
Christian dogma," says Mr. Morley, "are the only 
regions in which Mr. Gladstone's opinions have no 

The early period is full of the movement of the 
Church revival, with all its revolutionary consequences. 
Dissuaded from his original desire for the Christian 
ministry, Gladstone threw himself into the world of 
affairs deliberately as a servant of the Church. "I 
contemplate secular affairs," he says, " chiefly as a 
means of being useful in Church affairs." "Political 
life," says Mr. Morley, "was only part of his religious 
life." This crusading energy made him a strange 
figure in the realm of early Victorian politics, amongst 
that particular section of English life which has never 
learnt to take religion seriously. Continually and from 
the beginning he is protesting against the infected 
atmosphere of Parliament. Of public life, he con- 
fesses, " every year shows me more and more that the 
ideal of Christian politics cannot be realised in the 
State according to present conditions of existence." 



He was ever desiring a kind of monastic seclusion. 
" The tumult of business follows and whirls me day 
and night," he cries. He finds no time for tranquil 
collection of himself or the cultivation of the things of 
the spirit. He " anticipates a time " when he may 
" hreathe other air." 

But to the party and ideas he stood for his posi- 
tion was of supreme importance. The High Church 
School consisted mainly of theologians hidden from 
the world, of women, of amiable country gentlemen, 
endeavouring to maintain feudal ideas in an atmosphere 
removed from the new, energetic England. Here was 
a man adequate to all occasions, with a miraculous 
physical vitality, a frame of steel, toil "his native 
element." He stood as the one man of deep religious 
conviction endowed with capacity to direct the whirlwind 
and control the storm. For the first time a statesman 
of unparalleled energy and intellect was to confess him- 
self before the world an ardent adherent of these new 
doctrines. He was to become the idol of a middle class 
utterly alien to the Catholic faith and tradition. He 
was to manipulate national finance, to encounter and to 
master, at their own poor game, the children of this 
world. Through all the crowd of cross purposes and 
shabby and pitiful ambitions which make up the uni- 
verse of party politics he was to press forward as one on 
a journey, passing to a sure end. 

Confusion and perplexity were produced in the minds 
of his contemporaries by this apparition of a man 
with convictions and an ideal amid the shadows and 
phantoms of the time. During the first sixteen years 
of his political life in close association with his two 
greatest friends, Manning and James Hope, he was 
daily planning efforts for the restoration of the Church. 



The London movement advanced independently of the 
Oxford movement, although along parallel lines. "I 
stagger to and fro like a drunken man " was Gladstone's 
comment when he saw the great leader passing to a 
hostile communion. He was never quite in sympathy 
with Newman. His thought was too objective for free 
communion with that subtle mind. The motive was 
never, as in Newman, ardour for a personal salvation, 
but shame at " the laying waste of the heritage of the 
Lord." The six years that followed were years of a 
tense anxiety. Then, in 1851, came the great dis- 
ruption and separation which changed the whole vision 
of the future. " Fully believing that the death of the 
Church of England is among the alternate issues of the 
Gorham case," he yet clung to the cause to which his 
life had been dedicated. But Manning and Hope 
passed over to the other side. " Their going," he 
records in his diary, " may be to me a sign that my 
work is gone with them." " Nothing like it can ever 
happen to me again." It was the close of an epoch. 

Ten years were spent in unsatisfactory hesitations. 
In 1859 he could still be branded as " the Jesuit of the 
closet really devout," and the " Simeon Stylites of his 
time." But the principle of liberty was steadily work- 
ing. The change from Oxford to South Lancashire 
meant an escape from shadows into the strong if cold 
light of day. In 1863 he commenced relationships with 
Protestant Nonconformists. Their whole point of view 
was alien to his own. Often, as in the education con- 
troversy, he strained their loyalty to the breaking-point. 
They were " attracted by his personal piety, though re- 
pelled by its ecclesiastical apparel." While his own 
Church regarded with distrust or hatred the greatest 
layman it has ever possessed, the Nonconformists 



followed him with a splendid devotion. "We believe 
in no man's infallibility," said Spurgeon; "but it is 
restful to be sure of one man's integrity." Only at 
the last, when he advocated a scheme for granting self- 
government to a Roman Catholic nation containing a 
Protestant minority, many with sorrow turned aside and 
walked no more with him. 

And through all the gigantic endeavour of these later 
years the interior life continued its progress. Gladstone 
will appear in history as the " practical mystic" ; one of 
those apparitions which exercise amid a world of cloudy 
purpose so miraculous a power. The consciousness of 
personal responsibility, the sense of a Divine call and 
election for service, the apprehension of a particular 
Providence, the increasing recognition of the necessity 
for some definite preparation for the hour of death and 
the day of judgment ; these great commonplaces of the 
religious life are continually with him. Of a particular 
speech at the outset of his career : " A poor perform- 
ance," he writes, " but would have been poorer had He 
never been in my thoughts, a present and powerful aid." 
" On most occasions of very sharp pressure or trial," he 
testifies, " some word of Scripture has come home to 
me as if borne on angels' wings." In election contests 
or Budget speeches he is strengthened by verses of the 
Psalms. On his rejection by Oxford University the first 
lesson in church supplies his need: " And they shall 
fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against 
thee, for I am with thee, saith the Lord of Hosts." 
Successive birthdays always drove him back in medita- 
tion to the basic principles of his faith. On his sixtieth 
birthday " The Almighty seems to sustain and spare me 
for some good purpose of His own, utterly unworthy as 
I know myself to be. Glory be to His name." Ten 



years afterwards, at the close of the intoxicating 
triumphs of the Midlothian campaign, he " professes to 
believe" that the hattle has been fought for justice, 
humanity, freedom, law. 

" If I really believe this," he writes, "then I should 
regard my having been morally forced into this work as 
a high election of God. And certainly I cannot but 
believe that He has given me special gifts of strength 
on the late occasion, especially in Scotland. Three 
things I would ask of God over and above all the bounty 
which surrounds me. This first, that I may escape into 
retirement. This second, that I may speedily be 
enabled to divest myself of everything resembling wealth. 
And the third if I may that when God calls me He 
may call me speedily." 

There was to be given him another great decade of 
life, a struggle against doubt, cowardice, and the 
accumulated wrongs of time, which in its large energies 
and enthusiasms already seems the record of some 
combat of giants in a half fabulous past. And at the 
end there was given him also that gift which he had 
desired so eagerly and so patiently, the interval of tran- 
quillity and preparation "between Parliament and the 

Two sentences adequately sum up the inner life of 
Gladstone. The objective result is recorded in the 
magnificent phrase addressed to him by an unknown 
correspondent : " You have so lived and wrought as to 
have kept the soul alive in England." The inner 
springs of action are revealed in the line from the 3rd 
Canto of the Paradiso, which he accepted as possessing 
an " inexpressible majesty of truth " as if spoken by 
the very mouth of God : " In la sua volontade e nostra 
pace": In His Will is our Peace. To the obedience 

113 I 


of that Will he dedicated all the ardour of a soul beyond 
all men's impetuous and impatient. " The final state 
which we are to contemplate with hope and seek by 
discipline," he wrote, " is that in which we shall be one 
with the will of God." 

The effort demanded a continual examination and 
struggle. He " achieved self-control," is the testimony 
of his wife, " by incessant watching and prayer." In 
all the Christian centuries no more splendid gifts 
have been offered with whole-hearted devotion and 
humility. The age has travelled beyond the special 
intellectual affirmations of Gladstone's belief. His 
principles were matured before the theory of evolution 
and modern research had created a new world. But 
the great ends and ideals of the passion of his soul, 
the " bright crystal laws of life," in Mr. Morley's fine 
phrase, " endure like pointing stars guiding a traveller's 
eye to the celestial pole by which he steers." A large 
benefaction remains to us and succeeding generations 
from so shining an example. He raised above the 
turmoil of the politics of a day a supreme moral ideal. 
He reconciled the large claims of a Catholic faith with 
the assertion of liberty as an essential condition of 
excellence in human things. He maintained always 
against the slow stain of the world's contagion the 
detachment and ardour of an inner life fixed in entire 
submission to the will of God. High efforts such as 
these are as essential to-day as in that vanished universe 
of Gladstone's first radiant dawn. To those amongst 
whom, in however limited a sphere, is offered a possibility 
of a similar enterprise, his life stands secure in the 
courses of Time ; a challenge to all striving after transi- 
tory things, a message of victory in the troublous years 
to come. 



THE ecclesiastical life is never a very cheering docu- 
ment. The atmosphere is often thin and rarefied, 
the interests divorced from the varied experience of the 
common thought of men. In so many success has meant 
the cautious pursuit of a well-trodden way. Who now 
remembers the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury of 
a hundred years ago or the penultimate Dean of Lich- 
field or Archdeacon of London ? But where personality 
and strength are conspicuously present, the life of the 
priest or minister acquires an especial interest. Always 
there is the challenge, was it for that reason or for this, 
that he forsook the combats of the world and entered 
the service of a spiritual kingdom ? And of late years 
interest has been intensified by the general break-up of 
the traditional theology. There are many to-day who 
are astonished that an honest man can still call himself 
a Christian, or assent to formularies historic and out- 
worn. There are others perplexed to reconcile the 
Christian ethic with the modern economic organisation 
of society, and scorn God because the cry of the poor 
exercises so scanty a disturbance amid the apathy of the 
Sabbath congregation. The past few years have been 
heavy in the loss of those to whom these and other 



questions were very pressing. Their lives are an 
attempt at answers. Temple was one of the strong 
men of the century. Creighton was the most agile 
and interested mind of his day. Westcott as a scholar 
and a thinker stands heyond the reach of challenge. 
Dolling was a personality who exercised a particular in- 
fluence and attraction. The lives of these men should 
be fruitful in questions, if not in answers, to this problem 
of faith disturbed and uncertain guidance which broods 
over the future of England. 

" We cannot understand how these opinions can 
be held consistently with an honest subscription to 
the formularies of our Church, with many of the funda- 
mental doctrines of which they appear to us essentially 
at variance." So forty-two years ago, in scathing con- 
demnation, two archbishops and twenty-five bishops 
publicly denounced seven writers who had united to 
issue a little volume of theological essays. Nine years 
afterwards the first of these writers was appointed by 
Gladstone Bishop of Exeter. A vast hubbub arose. 
Petitions poured in from Protestants and Ritualists, 
joining against the common enemy. The Chapter were 
urged to refuse to confirm the election. " I have letters 
from all parts of the country," said the Dean of Exeter, 
" about the sword of the Lord and Gideon, exhorting us 
to go to prison and promising us visits there." On the 
day of consecration bishop after bishop protested ; one 
(still living) " in the fear of God and the Church " ; 
others counselling delay or wringing their hands in 
despair. Time ultimately swept the clamour into 
silence. Thirty years after, this man who had been 



judged by his Church's leaders as dishonest, died one 
winter day amidst a universal tribute to a rugged 
honesty Frederick, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Few lives have been able to show so dramatic a 
revolution. Those who would understand the real 
nature of the man can be recommended to study the 
record of the long dead controversy over "Essays and 
Reviews." Entombed in the dusty immensity of Arch- 
bishop Tait's life is a chapter of Tait-Temple letters 
which for vigour and interest in ecclesiastical corre- 
spondence can only be paralleled by the Newman- 
Manning letters in Purcell's first edition. Tait, after 
promising to protect the writers, had yielded to the 
agitation and signed that scathing document of condem- 
nation. Later he attempted to persuade Temple to 
desert the other essayists and leave them to their ruin. 
The replies ring true and tempered across the interven- 
ing years. It is strength against suavity. Here is the 
restrained, passionate protest of a man who feels himself 
wronged by the weakness and uncertainty of a friend 
cowering before a storm of public opinion. " If you do 
not wish to alienate your friends, do not treat them as 
you have treated me." " Nothing on earth will induce 
me to do what you propose. I do not judge for others, 
but in me it would be base and untrue." " You ought 
not to make it impossible for a friend to calculate on 
what you will do." " The greatest kindness you can 
now do me is to forget till all this is over that any 
friendship ever existed between us." " Your friends 
complain that they cannot count on you. Your enemies 
say they can." The sentences sear and burn after all 
the lapse of time. Not often do high dignitaries who 
attempt compromise thus learn the truth. The man is 
revealed in a moment of time. He is true as steel, 



honest as the day, with deep affection beneath the 
outward harshness. He scornfully refuses to exculpate 
himself at the expense of his comrades. He regards as, 
perhaps, the meanest act of which a public man could 
be guilty, the sacrifice of a cause or a friend to such an 
aimless, despicable thing as the clamour of the crowd. 

These were the heroic days of Liberalism. This 
little book and these seven denounced men become the 
centre and rallying cry of the movement. Temple had 
not always been of this faith. At Oxford, with almost 
all others of his generation, he had been influenced by 
the Catholic revival. I once heard him describe the 
fascination exercised over the University by Newman 
from St. Mary's pulpit, with a voice, as he pictured it, 
like a silver bell; a pleading for righteousness and 
the judgment of God with the piercing simplicity of a 
child. In the break-up which followed he threw himself 
with energy into the liberal movement. The position of 
the "Essays and Reviews" has now become an accepted 
commonplace in the Church. As in the history of the 
dreaded five-point Charter in politics, men now only 
wonder at the consternation evoked by so mild a pro- 
gramme. But the spirit of these writers in religion as in 
politics is as necessary to-day as yesterday. The prin- 
ciple which underlay the definite position, the right of 
free inquiry, the acceptance of knowledge, indifference to 
accusations of dishonesty and the hostility of all that 
is comfortable and orthodox, were never more needed 
than now. From the grave the words of the great 
Archbishop come with a message of encouragement. 
" I joined in writing this book in the hope of breaking 
through that mischievous reticence which, go where I 
would, I perpetually found destroying the truthfulness 
of religion. I wished to encourage men to speak 



out." The study of theology and criticism, " BO full 
of difficulties, imperatively demands freedom for its 
conditions. To tell a man to study, and yet bid him, 
under heavy penalties, come to the same conclusions 
with those who have have not studied, is to mock 
him. If the conclusions are prescribed the study is 

And if his first legacy to modern Liberalism is a 
lesson of honesty and of progress, his second, no less 
needful, is a lesson of work. He was neither a great 
thinker, nor a great scholar, nor a great orator. He 
was in many respects typically English ; practical, not 
visionary, hating humbug and cant, sturdily pursuing 
his own business. There was work to do, and he set 
himself to do it. Plodding forward, shifting aside the 
faint and laggard, trampling down anything that opposed 
his progress, he drove along the machine : with creak- 
ing and protest, rusty joints and unoiled hinges : but 
still ever moving. A worker, he tested others by their 
work. Not Carlyle himself enforced more emphatically 
the Gospel of Labour. This was the key to all his 
ecclesiastical policy so little understood, so much 
debated. For millinery and sham he had no respect 
whatever. He disliked ritual, and where he found it 
hollow and lifeless, he ruthlessly condemned. Amidst 
endless apocryphal stories two may be accepted as 
authentic. He always, to the regret of High Church- 
men, celebrated at the North side of the altar. At 
one advanced church at which he was to officiate the 
ingenious authorities had determined to force him to 
assume the Eastward position. The Bishop found the 
sides of the altar elaborately barricaded with flowers 
and greenery. At the proper moment, however, with- 
out any apparent emotion, he sturdily tramped through 



the palms and lilies, and standing amidst the flower- 
pots, to the astonishment of the congregation, concluded 
the ceremony with calmness. On another, in one of 
the dead " Catholic " churches of the West End, he 
entered at the tail of a long procession marching 
towards the brilliantly lighted altar. The procession 
entered the chancel, but without the Bishop. In the 
hush of surprise a stentorian command resounded from 
the end of the nave, " Put out those lights." These 
being hastily extinguished, the Bishop tramped his 
solitary way up the awestruck church. The vicar 
afterwards attempted remonstrance. " But at St. 

A s, my lord (naming a church in a poor district), 

you allowed altar-lights." " They've got the kernel as 
well as the husk," was the discomforting response. 

Yet, despite this habitual attitude, under his rule 
such developments of ritual were permitted as London 
had never before seen. So long as work was progressing 
in the old language, BO long as souls were being 
saved he tolerated the widest divergence in non- 
essentials. In London's great welter of heathenism 
and crime he refused to persecute those whose fruits, 
however grown, were visibly good. Ritual seemed to 
him so unimportant, five or five hundred candles, 
marchings round the church, quaint or picturesque 
clothing. He would have permitted a procession to 
enter on their heads if it would have aided the great 
cause. The result of this toleration was a Church 
crisis, Mr. Kensit, Lady \Vimborne, and a Protestant 
agitation which disturbed his successors but troubled 
him not at all. That a man should be in the least 
moved by popular clamour, or yield to a cause through 
the noise of its adherents, seemed to him not so much 
cowardly as absurd. 



To the last he remained strong in the principles for 
which he had fought with Gladstone in the old days. 
Yet he grew profoundly dissatisfied with the condition 
of English politics. A few months before his death, 
when we were discussing present-day questions, he 
suddenly burst in upon us with the conundrum : " But 
if you could call any living statesman to power, whom 
would you name ? " The answer was impossible. 
Yet he always refused to attempt to read the future. 
In a collection of fatuous forecasts of well-known men, 
" What will the world be like at the end of the 
century?" his answer stands terse and characteristic: 
" I haven't the slightest idea." I remember an evening 
when we deliberately attempted to draw from him 
prophecies of the results of present-day movements. 
"I don't know," was his invariable reply. He had 
done his work. He belonged to a vanishing age. He 
knew his time was short, that a new England had 
arisen which must find its own leaders and work out 
its own salvation. 

With others, however, he noted the transference of 
interest from political to economic questions. To the 
end he was a strenuous advocate of social reform. Two 
years before he died he unexpectedly appeared at the 
Brighton Church Congress in a lethargic discussion 
on the Housing Question, selecting this, as he said, 
from all the subjects, that he might emphasise the 
necessity for its consideration by the Church. It is no 
secret to state that he was no whole-hearted advocate 
of the Government's Education policy. The Bill as it 
stood was fashioned by other hands. Though giving 
a general assent he regarded it with misgiving. He had 
not the contempt for " undenominationalism " which is 
now fashionable. But he recognised the impossibility 



of the present " religious " teaching in State schools. 
"It may not be important," I heard him say a few 
weeks before he died, " whether that or this dogma is 
taught to children ; but it is important that whatever 
religion is taught should be believed by the teacher." 

" Some of those whom the gods love die young. 
This man, because the gods loved him, lingered on to 
be of immense, patriarchal age, till the sweetness it 
had taken so long to secrete in him was found at last." 
Pater's verdict on Michaelangelo naturally rises to 
the mind in thinking of Temple's last days. To those 
who only knew him at the close of his long career 
the popular verdict of harshness seemed incredible. 
Strength, simplicity, kindliness these were the pre- 
vailing impressions. In the vastness of Lambeth 
Palace he encamped as a temporary occupant and on 
a journey. Here were the simple iron bedstead, the 
bare equipment for work, simple furnishing, simple 
meals, in which one was encouraged to consume barley 
water a deplorable drink. Messengers poured in and 
out, an enormous correspondence flooded to the four 
quarters of the earth. Around him surged armies of 
courtiers and flatterers. In the midst was the simple, 
family life, with, at the centre, the old warrior, with 
eye dim but force unabated, having borne unscathed 
through a strange and disordered time the heart of a 
little child. 

The end found him still at work. A month before it 
came he was fulfilling his crowded round of engagements, 
doing the work of ten with an iron constitution which 
apparently nothing could disturb rushing over England 
in long night journeys, preaching, writing, advising, driv- 
ing forward the machine. Suddenly, and in a moment, 
the overwrought body collapsed ; he left the House of 



Lords a dying man. Slowly, continuously, painlessly 
the life ebbed away. With tranquillity and a certain 
blitheness he waited for the end; leaving his work 
accomplished, carefully taking his farewell of all, 
apologising in historic words for being such an uncon- 
scionable long time a-dying. I like to think of him as 
seen in the evening service in Lambeth Chapel amidst 
the memorials of innumerable transitory generations, in 
the broken lights and shadows, a strong and heroic figure 
reciting with unfaltering accents the creed of that 
faith which had sustained him for eighty years. An 
elemental force vanished with him, a great personality. 
Requiem eternam dona ei Domine : et lux perpetua 
luceat ei. 


Westcott's life is the revelation of a character 
rather than a record of ecclesiastical history. Out- 
wardly there is the career of usefulness : a fellow- 
ship at Trinity, a mastership at Harrow, canonries at 
Peterborough and Westminster, a Cambridge professor- 
ship ; finally, the great Durham bishopric. But a 
similar course has been followed by many energetic and 
mediocre persons now reposing in unremembered graves. 
Behind all this, which in Westcott's case was accidental, 
is the life of thought in which he really lived. Like 
his comrade Hort in his country parsonage this man in 
the main was concerned with the things of the spirit. 

It was a life of almost incredible toil combined with 
an ascetic simplicity. As an undergraduate, we hear of 
work from five in the morning until past twelve at night, 
with scanty intervals for meals and recreation, and a 
biscuit for lunch. Later, " when we came down to 
prayers in the morning," says his son, "we would 



find him writing away with a pile of finished letters 
before him, and when we went to bed he was working 
still." At Harrow he stood for extreme simplicity of 
living and a plea for the disciplined life. Here he 
elaborated the idea of the " Coenobium," a kind of 
community of families committed to three ends the 
conquest of luxury, the disciplining of intellectual 
labour, religious exercises. The scheme was character- 
istic both of the splendour of the ideal and the inability 
to appreciate the littleness and vanities which make such 
an ideal impossible. " Whenever we children showed 
signs of greediness," says his son, " we were assured 
that such things would be unheard of in the Coenobium. 
We viewed the establishment of the Coenobium with 
gloomy apprehension." Even Harrow was unable to 
fasten upon him the usual intellectual sterility of the 
public-school mastership. Volumes of books on Chris- 
tian philosophy and textual criticism were being issued 
all the seventeen years. This devoted intellectual 
labour was associated with a complete indifference to 
most things which men delight in. Every form of 
luxury was to him abhorrent. " When circumstances 
compelled him so to do, he practically went without a 
meal." He had an extreme disinclination to spend 
money on himself. " He would insist on pronouncing 
threadbare and green coats, condemned by the universal 
voice of the family, as ' excellent.' ' In the enforced 
display of the bishopric he would sit huddled up with 
his back to the horses in his carriage, as a kind of mute 
protest against such outrageous luxury. The sense of 
life's intense seriousness was ever with him. "Holi- 
days he could hardly take : he found no joy in them, 
and more especially so in later years. Expenditure on 
self was all but impossible." 



The result of this ascetic toil was the accumulation 
of vast knowledge in varied fields. He was a scholar, 
in the exact sense, of European reputation. But with 
this detailed, textual research, which came to be the 
distinguishing feature of the Cambridge school of 
theology, he combined a wide acquaintance with other 
forms of science. He had dabbled in geology and 
botany, and was familiar with all those scientific 
discoveries which were filling the age in which he lived 
with noisy echoes. He had read deep in philosophy, 
ancient and modern. Comte, Browning, Baur, Mazzini, 
were the modern writers to whom he owed most. In 
the last years of life he commenced with all the ardour 
of youth the study of those social questions which he 
held were the real problems of the coming time. The 
novel was the only form of literature with which he was 
unfamiliar. " The Scarlet Letter," " Jane Eyre," 
" Villette," " Romola," " John Inglesant," this is the 
pathetic list of his library. His strange failures in 
reading men, the atmosphere of detachment which 
made so much of his work difficult for the man of the 
street, may be due to the dwelling in a universe of 
ideas alien to the world of modern fiction. 

His name will always be associated with two main 
efforts : the elucidation of a text and the preaching of a 
philosophy. On the one side he is linked with Light- 
foot and Hort in that critical and constructive examina- 
tion of the New Testament canon which was the special 
work of the Cambridge school. The Westcott and 
Hort text, an epoch-making book, "probably the most 
important contribution to Biblical learning in our 
generation "; the great commentaries on St. John and 
the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Revised Version of 
the Bible, are the permanent memorials of his life- 



work. On the other side, he stands by himself, rather 
pathetically alone. He elaborated a Christian philosophy 
which the student found mystical and the ordinary man 
perplexing. It was alien to the prevailing theology of 
the Oxford Movement, hard, clear-cut, dogmatic. It 
found no acceptance among the Evangelicals, with their 
demands for emotional satisfaction in a simple creed. 
It was distrusted by the new Broad Church divines, 
cheerfully iconoclastic and hating mystery. Occasion- 
ally the reader caught an illuminating sentence. 
Gleams of a splendour never felt before would dis- 
close abysses of spiritual meaning behind the terms 
of a dead dogma. To a few, this teaching invested 
all things with a light that never was on sea or 
land. But, for the most part, there he walked alone. 
In the early days he had passed through a period of 
terrible doubt. He speaks of a wild storm of unbelief 
" from the midst of which he gazed on the hundreds who 
conform with a kind of awe and doubt a mixture of won- 
der and suspicion." He emerged on to the height with 
a clear apprehension of spiritual things. All his later 
years he seemed to possess a spiritual vision, to walk 
amongst his companions in the cave with something of 
the bewilderment of those who had seen the light in 
Plato's allegory. One of his best-known works was at 
first suppressed, owing to the demand for modification 
made by the Society for the Propagation of Christian 
Knowledge. In the period of his first writings the 
orthodox were profoundly perplexed by his utterances. 
It is difficult to summarise his teaching. It has 
been said that Westcott shifted the central fact of 
Christianity from the Atonement to the Incarnation. 
The vision of a humanity burdened with its sins and 
haunted by terrors of judgment became changed to the 



vision of a humanity inspired by hope and waiting 
expectant for a glory that shall be revealed. The con- 
cluding lines of Browning's " Karshish " sum up 
Westcott's creed. " The Bishop does not seem to 
believe in the Fall," it was complained of him. He 
scarcely realised the depth of degradation to which 
human nature could descend. When confronted with 
some particularly appalling case of clerical immorality 
he would frankly reject the overwhelming evidence 
adduced, upon the ground that his categories of being 
did not include the existence of such a monster. 
"Humanity," he was never tired of asserting, is "not 
a splendid shrine deserted by a great king, but a living 
body stirred by noble thoughts which cannot for ever be 
in vain." 

This consciousness of the supreme greatness of 
humanity made him one of the prophets of his genera- 
tion. In the Incarnation he found the key to all 
that social enthusiasm for which he is best remembered. 
"A critic asks me," he sadly complains at the end, 
" 'what has the Incarnation to do with war . . . with 
the organisation of industry, with buying and selling 
with expenditure ? ' That such questions can be asked 
by a man of average intelligence is a terrible proof of 
our failure to make our message known." Religion 
must come from the twilight of the Churches, he was 
always insisting, and into the ways of men. So he 
preached Christian Socialism, and became founder 
and first President of the Christian Social Union, 
perplexing the orthodox and respectable with the sight 
of a bishop concerning himself with trade unions and an 
eight hours' day. He exhibited the rare combination, 
of the mystic with the practical man. The most spiritual 
of modern religious teachers descended most com- 


pletely into concern with the petty questions of the 

Some very pleasing pictures remain of scenes in 
Westcott's long and devoted life. There is the most 
touching combat in self-effacement between him and 
Lightfoot, each refusing to put himself as a candidate 
for the professorship before the other. There are the 
two sermons in Westminster Abbey preached by the 
solitary sorrower of the "triumvirate" over the grave 
of his lifelong friends. There is one aspect of the man 
in the somewhat eerie meditations in the great 
cathedral at midnight, spent in thought and prayer and 
communion with the dead ; a silent figure in the moon- 
light, "when the vast building was haunted with 
strange lights and shadows, and the ticking of the great 
clock sounded like some giant's footsteps in the deep 

In sharp contrast, but all of a piece, is the dramatic 
scene at Auckland Castle, when the great coal strike, 
which had desolated a thousand homes, was settled 
by the personal pleading of the bishop. He invited 
the masters and men to the castle, presided at a 
ioint conference, speaking earnestly for peace : then 
left them in separate rooms, himself acting as in- 
termediary. The long hours passed, and no settle- 
ment arrived : the crowd which had gathered in the 
town pressed up to the palace, waiting with painful 
tension for any news. All the North was hanging on 
the result. He pleaded with the owners for concession, 
urging them to put aside all the aroused bitterness, to 
consider the question as it would be judged in the years to 
come. Finally, the force of sheer goodness prevailed : the 
owners consented to the compromise : the rest was a wild 
scene of rejoicing and gratitude in a thousand homes. 



Effort, devotion, utter humility, shine through all. 
"If I had ever dared to form a wish," he writes con- 
cerning one offer. " Here I have learnt to feel my own 
deficiencies most keenly," he confesses to another, 
" and I have found, too, those who are willing and able 
to teach and to train me." With all this humility and 
kindness there is no essential weakness. He warned 
as well as encouraged. His occasional outbursts of 
wrath, as in the correspondence concerning the action 
of the bishops about the Revisers' Communion, are 
almost terrible in their intensity. 

He saw and rebuked the vices of his age as well as 
its greatness. Many of his words were of doubt and 
warning. Here was no soft and easy gospel to be 
accepted by a nation living on the energies of the past 
and noisily proclaiming itself immortal. "Will the 
future say," he asked of this generation, "that crumb- 
ling heap, that desolate iron surface, tells of work 
performed only for the moment, which has cumbered the 
earth with ruins ; those coarse and mean phrases which 
have corrupted our language, tell of men who had no 
reverence and no dignity; that class antagonism which 
torments us, tells of the selfishness of our fathers, who, 
when there was yet time, failed to bind men to men as 
fellow-labourers in the cause of God? " 

Assuredly never was such warning more needed than 
in the time when the voice has become silent. 

The keynote of this long life of single purpose is 
gummed up in one of his great sentences, " To make of 
life one harmonious whole, to realise the invisible, to 
anticipate the transfiguring majesty of the Divine 
Presence, is all that is worth living for." To the end 
his unclouded optimism never failed him. He lived on 
the height. Something of the glory seemed to have 

129 K 


descended on him as, with rapt face and eyes which saw 
things hidden from the crowd around, he proclaimed 
the reality of an unseen world or the coming of the 
universal restoration. He lived in constant communion 
with spiritual powers. In the cathedral or his own 
chapel at night the dead seemed very near him. Those 
who have heard him proclaim his gospel will long 
remember how the little shrunken figure became trans- 
formed, and the almost painful humility vanished, and 
the voice took a sudden note of power, when, oblivious 
to the presence of the listening crowd, he proclaimed 
the spiritual message which he found almost too great 
for human utterance. Preceded by all his old com- 
rades, leaving the memory of a great example, with- 
out fear, but with all his own humility and confession 
of sinfulness, he passed triumphant to his rest. 


The life of Creighton presents a threefold interest. 
The first is the impression of the thought and change 
of a stirring time as reflected in the mind of a man 
of receptive and catholic sympathies. The second 
is the spectacle not only of history making, but of his- 
tory being made, by one called to play a great part in 
the world's affairs. The third is the actual study of 
one of the most fascinating (in a sense one of the most 
baffling) of the great men of the later Victorian age, 
who would have been almost equally a subject of 
interest had he been Bishop of Mesopotamia or 

Mandell Creighton was the son of a joiner of Carlisle, 
who had made a runaway match at Gretna Green with 



a kind-hearted woman, "very quick with her tongue." 
Childhood "over the shop in Castle Street " was stern, 
hard, rather joyless. He passed to Durham, then to 
Oxford ; a hrilliant career culminating in a Fellowship 
at Merton. The age was an age of wide disbelief, when 
all sane and clever men at Oxford were supposed to 
have abandoned Christianity. Creighton was chiefly 
renowned as a man who smoked multitudinous cigarettes 
and read multitudinous French novels, and in conversa- 
tion held pre-eminent place for the audacity of his 
paradoxes. His ordination was " much commented on." 
He himself acknowledged " that it was the habit in 
Oxford to assume that a man who took orders must be 
either a fool or a knave, and that as people could not 
call him a fool they had concluded that he must be a 
knave." " He never wore his spiritual heart on his 
sleeve," is the judgment which would apply to all his 
life, " and for this reason many thought he had none to 

Then, too, as always, he never suffered fools gladly, 
and held a hearty contempt for the majority of his 
fellow-men. " We are told that all men are liars," 
remonstrates a friend, " we are nowhere told that all 
men are fools." " The strongest compound of grimness 
and tenderness that I ever saw or conceived," is a 

" Dull and solemn people," writes a contemporary, 
" thought him flippant ; shallow people thought him 
insincere. No man of his time was so constantly, so 
freely, and so variously canvassed, not always favourably, 
but invariably as a rare and strange portent, not to be 
readily classified in any familiar category of human 
nature. I remember that once, on a tour in Holland with 
two friends, we talked of him daily and never exhausted 



the subject ; and years afterwards I was told that it had 
become so much the custom to discuss him at the 
shooting-lodge of one of his friends in Scotland, that 
some one proposed in fun to levy a fine on any one who 
mentioned his name." 

From the early time he showed his entire concern in 
the practical life, in the historical method of approach- 
ing questions. Of Darwin's discovery, " the whole 
matter seems to me to be very ingenious and amusing," 
he writes airily ; " but I have not time for it, and would 
rather read some Italian history." 

After his marriage he vanished from Oxford into a 
Northumbrian village, and was Vicar of Embleton for 
nine years years of devoted work and incessant study 
of which the "History of the Papacy" was the main 
fruit. From thence he was called to the new Dixie 
Professorship at Cambridge, where he astonished the 
dull by his " frivolity." " Nowhere did he talk such 
nonsense as in our Combination Room on Sundays," 
was the admiring verdict of a friend. 

After a canonry at Worcester, combined with his 
professorship, and a momentary exchange to Windsor, 
he was suddenly promoted to succeed Magee as Bishop 
of Peterborough. He had absolutely no wish for office. 
" My mind will go to seed," was his characteristic 
verdict. " I shall utter nothing but platitudes for the 
rest of my life, and everybody will write letters in the 
newspapers about my iniquities." The latter judgment 
was as completely fulfilled as the former falsified. His 
work at Peterborough first revealed to the general world 
same of his astonishing powers, and there was a universal 
approval when the call brought him to London. 

His five years in London, in five of the most crowded 
and momentous years of the century, stamped them- 



selves deep upon the history of the time. He always 
resented the time spent in curbing human folly. " Every 
ass in the diocese thinks that he has a right to come and 
bray in my study," was one characteristic complaint. 

London he branded as "this inhuman spot." " The 
world which he defined as ' the activities of this life 
with God left out ' seemed to him to invade everything 
in London." He found himself in the toils of inter- 
minable ritual disputes. He despised both parties 
the one for their foolishness, the other for their 
bigotry and reliance on the secular arm ; and scarcely 
took the trouble to conceal his contempt. His letters 
abound in firm common-sense which neither party found 
acceptable which, indeed, he did not expect either 
party to find acceptable. " We are all agreed in 
regretting that there should be such a person as Mr. 
Kensit," he wrote to one party ; "but the question how 
best to deal with him is a purely practical one." 
" There is no reason why your method should not be 
tried," he wrote to Sir William Harcourt on the other 
side, " except that no one wishes to try it, but only to 
abuse the bishops for not trying it." 

His activity was astonishing. He went everywhere 
and did everything generally two things at once. His 
sayings afforded unfailing copy for the journalists 
whom he so heartily despised. " I seem to be always 
talking," is his complaint. Men wondered when the 
Bishop of London found time to say his prayers. 

It killed him in five years. At the end " he did not 
seem as if he wished to live." He passed away with 
" God " on his lips. 

" For sheer cleverness Creighton beats any man I 
know " was Archbishop Temple's judgment. " The 
most alert and universal intelligence that existed in this 



island at the time of his death " was the verdict of 
Lord Rosebery. 

All his life he remained aloof from contemporary 
politics, hut his judgments are full of wisdom. In 1880 
he definitely came out on the platform to support the 
Liberals against Disraeli's Imperialism, demanding that 
" we might go back from assertions of our ascendency 
to the duties which we met with at home." Later he 
is appalled at " the mess " the Liberals are making of 
it, and prophesies " a Conservative reaction that will 
last our lifetime." In 1881, with an almost uncanny 
foresight, he can foretell the future: 

" England is not healthy ; she is going through a 
process of economical readjustment of which no one can 
see the end ; it may result in the development of new 
forces, or it may be the beginning of a quiet decay not 
decay exactly, but subsidence. All this sorely exercises 
the mind of the spectator and fills him with wonder. 
Trade and agriculture cannot any longer go on 
the old lines; will they find new lines or will they 
collapse ? Already I see the doctrine of Protection 
taking a strong hold of the mind of separate classes. 
I believe that separate interests will coalesce against 
the public good and against the voice of wisdom. This, 
by bringing in a fallacious solution, will suspend the 
real settlement of the question and make a mess." 

He distrusted Gladstone because of his enthusiasms 
and emotions. All his life he was an enemy of emotion 
and enthusiasm in public affairs. " Imperial policy will 
drive home affairs into a corner" was a verdict in 1885. 
He became a Unionist at the great disruption. In the 
Armenian agitation he branded the movement as " hope- 
lessly Pecksniffian," because it refused the only practical 
step, " to hand the whole thing over to Russia." In the 



South African trouble he condemned (as so many) the 
Chamberlain policy, but accepted the war when it 
broke out. "I don't like war with the Transvaal," he 
wrote just before the crisis. " It may be a short cut to 
great schemes, but we are great enough to wait." At 
the end he took a gloomy view of the future : 

" We are ignorant and refuse to learn. We are 
arrogant and refuse to sympathise. We believe in 
our general capacity : we rejoice in our national wealth. 
I think that in a few years our wealth will diminish in 
comparison with that of the United States : our com- 
merce will be threatened by German competition, 
founded on better education and receptive intelligence. 
We must urge these considerations and must not 
settle down, to live in a fool's paradise. I feel that 
the next ten years will be a very critical period for 

He was the frankest and most natural person of the 
time. Whatever he thought he immediately spoke out 
or wrote down in his letters. The results were often 
disastrous. " If one stops to be judicious or wise or 
discreet," was his apology, " one simply becomes dull." 
He was undoubtedly "too clever": in many respects 
a kind of ecclesiastical Bernard Shaw ; producing the 
same devastating effect on the plain man. He had no 
self-restraint, and to the end remained as one of those 
children whose company he most loved. He was 
inclined to treat all men, especially enthusiasts, as 
children; and the difficulties of the Ritual agitation 
were greatly increased by his inability to convince the 
violent partisans that he did not think them children 
quarrelling over toys and playthings. He hated all 
enthusiasm, all fanaticism. I remember hearing him 
preach a University sermon at Cambridge a sermon 



on "Liberty," in many respects remarkable. He 
stalked into the pulpit, unrolled a conspicuous manu- 
script, read hurriedly in a passionless voice without ever 
lifting his eyes from the paper, and without a sign of 
emotion stalked out again at the end. It was impossible 
to imagine anything more chilling. Later, as chairman 
of the London Diocesan Conference, he sat at a table on 
the dais writing interminable letters with an aspect of 
cold detachment, while rival factions howled at each 
other in the hall beneath. At the end he rose and 
dismissed the whole thing (so it seemed) with a few 
words of frigid contempt. He would go down to 
some suburb to bless the local hassock, and the Mayor 
and chief citizens and clergy would be gathered 
together, bursting with enthusiasm ; and he would rap 
out some statement as that "this kind of thing bores 
me to death," or that " the horrible thought has just 
struck me that I shall be doing this sort of thing ten 
years hence " ; and the fervour would somehow vanish 
from the ceremony. 

" Bored " and " amused," as the greatest evil and 
the greatest good in life, run through his judgment. His 
view of his fellow-men, and especially of Englishmen, 
was of the lowest. " Sometimes it seems to me as if 
the world was made up of moral invalids and moral 
lunatics," was one verdict. The " heart of the English 
people " he described as " the very last place I should 
wish to be found in a sloppy sort of place, I take it." 
Of history, "I know that we ought to believe," he wrote, 
' ' that mighty movements always swayed the hearts of 
men. So they have when they made for their pecuniary 
interest. But I believe that ideas were always second 
thoughts in politics they were the garb with which 
men covered the nudity of their practical desires. I 



mean that I can never ask myself first, ' What 
mighty ideas swelled in the hearts of men ? ' But, 
' What made men see a chance of saving sixpence, of 
gaining sixpence, or escaping from being robbed of 
sixpence ? ' What man was clever enough to devise a 
formula round which men could rally for this purpose? " 
" The English mind has no grasp of ideas," he declared, 
" and no sense of proportion. Indeed, the English- 
man has no mind at all ; he only has an hereditary 

He heartily despised our English education, from the 
elementary school upwards. He branded the nation as 
a whole as in that dangerous condition of "half- 
knowledge " which was more dangerous than ignorance. 
He exhibited no sympathy at all with the newer ideals 
of social reform, and seemed to care nothing for the 
problems of London's poverty. His real enthusiasms 
were reserved for knowledge, for liberty, and for that 
Church of England which he called " the nation looked 
at from the religious side," whose sober and unemotional 
piety seemed to him the type of all that is best amongst 
the religions of the world. 

He was a wayward, always interesting, lovable 
character. He hated getting up in the morning. He 
hated the high mountains, "the rubbish heaps of 
Nature's workshops." He was passionately fond of 
children, who were entirely devoted to him. This love 
of children he never discovered till he was nearly thirty : 
more fortunate than Herbert Spencer, who pathetically 
realised the attraction of children's society only when 
an old man. 

" Probably no one," writes Mrs. Creighton, "was ever a 
better hand at a romp than he was. He would toss the 
children about like balls, and allow them to ill-treat him 



in any way they liked. He was also an adept at telling 
nonsense stories ; sometimes on a walk with the children 
hanging round him, each struggling to get as close as 
possible, and their elders also trying to keep near enough 
to listen ; or lying full length on the hearthrug before 
the fire with all the children sitting upon him, making 
what he called a ' regular pie.' He seemed to enjoy 
his own inventions fully as much as his hearers, as he 
spun them out of his brain without a moment's pause." 

At Sandringham, just after being appointed to the 
Bishopric of London, " yesterday afternoon," he wrote, 
" I was careering round the hall with the Duke of York's 
eldest son on my shoulder, and Lord Salisbury looking 
at my agility with amazement." A pretty story is told 
of an incident of Queen Victoria's last visit to London. 
Standing with his chaplain in the crowd, to see her 
pass, the Bishop noticed a child who was too small 
to be able to see ; so he gave his chaplain his hat 
to hold, and lifted the child to a safe seat on his 
shoulder whence it could see everything. 

Beneath all the cleverness and scornful judgment of 
men the brilliancy and glitter and capacity which 
astonished so many was the inner life of affection 
and devotion. I remember being surprised by the 
sudden depth of feeling displayed in one of the last of 
his sermons a Lent address to a small audience upon 
the words " Incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth 
not away." The purpose of life, his deliberate verdict, 
was " an opportunity for loving." " The longer I live," 
he wrote in those last years, " the more deeply I am 
convinced that the true and abiding qualities are not 
the intellectual qualities, but the qualities of absolute 
simplicity and straightforwardness, and the desire for 
the right." 



"To me the one supreme object of human life," he 
confessed in a rare revelation of himself, " is, and 
always has been, to grow nearer to God; and I regard 
my own individual life as simply an opportunity of 
offering myself to Him." 


The main outline of Dolling's life is known to 
all. Here was a combination of diverse elements 
which caught the imaginations of men, and gave him 
a supreme interest amongst ministers of religion to the 
lay mind. Humanity in its larger aspects, naturalness, 
simplicity, a love of life and of all the varied men and 
women in the world, especially the sinners, the poor, 
and those outside the pale of the Church ; these were 
some outstanding features of a life of single-hearted 
devotion to one high cause. He never felt at home until 
he escaped from the atmosphere of the theological 
college and the dull respectabilities of conventional 
society, and settled down in his Portsmouth slum, among 
the people whom he loved. There was always much 
wilfulness in him. The element of revolt was never 
far from the surface. The " dear street-corner out-of- 
work people," as he calls them, were always more con- 
gruous to him than the ordinary well-to-do ratepayer. 
Brought up in the old evangelical tradition, his was a 
mind naturally catholic, delighting in symbol and cere- 
monial expression and the light and colour of service 
and procession. He had little reverence for the past, 
and about minute points of ritual he cared not at all. 
But the possibility of the magnificence of church and 
ceremony in the midst of the huddled, squalid dwellings 
of the poor made to him an irresistible appeal. His 



artistic sense was limited. Elaborate music he always 
hated, and the asthetic Catholicism which combined 
contempt of the common people with the sensuous 
appeal of " Cathedral " service, he regarded as an 
enemy of mankind. But the Catholic discipline he 
frankly accepted. He held that irreparable wrong had 
been done to these common people by the practical 
neglect of the Sacraments for so many centuries. And 
he recognised that the dreary condition of minds vacant 
and dulled with an entirely material outlook and little 
power of resistance to the forces of evil the condition 
in which he found great masses of the neglected poor 
could only be broken up and restored to a living faith 
by the full inheritance of Sacramental worship. 

The years at St. Agatha's were the great years of his 
life. The later period was more fruitful in lessons for 
the time. From the astonishing success of his Ports- 
mouth parish, with the enthusiasm of all classes of the 
town for a vigorous social reformer, and the utter 
devotion of his own poor people, he passed, after a 
year of wandering, into the grey, dead atmosphere of 
East London. The earlier successes could not be 
repeated in such a dreary environment. " Keligion 
has, so to speak," he confessed, "gone to pieces; there 
is no opposition ; we do not care enough to oppose. 
God is not in any of our thoughts ; we do not even fear 
Him. We face death with perfect composure, for we 
have nothing to give up and nothing to look forward to. 
Heaven has no attraction, because we should be out of 
place there. And Hell has no terrors." 

The conviction of the utter wrongness of such a 
condition of lassitude and of the disloyalty of a Church 
which allowed, without protest, the continuance and 
propagation of conditions creating this dreadful ac- 



quiescence, drove him in the last few years of his life 
to assume the function of a prophet. There is, perhaps, 
something a little incongruous in the idea of this 
exuberant, happy, rollicking Irishman, who retained 
through the whole of his life the heart of a child, thus 
warning grave and learned dignitaries of the menace 
of the time. But, indeed, it was just this childlike 
simplicity which gave force to his denunciation. He 
saw the wrong that was being done on the earth, not 
with the eyes of one who had grown up in its atmos- 
phere and accepted its conditions as inevitable, but 
with the insight and clear power of judgment of a 
child suddenly confronting the things of the present 
with the laws of justice and truth. 

Dolling was never a Church defender. He cared 
nothing at all for the Establishment and all the social 
influence which the Establishment represents. " If your 
heart is aflame," he said, " to defend the Church of 
England, first, at any rate, see that you cleanse 

"As to the present so-called crisis," he declared, in 
the last time of upheaval, "the real crisis, the one that 
ought to make Churchmen, on their knees in penitence 
before God, confess their negligence, is that the vast 
majority of English people care nothing for the Church, 
many even nothing for God." 

The smug respectability which Boiling's biographer 
brands as the evil genius of reformed Christendom, was 
his perpetual enemy. As the end approached and he 
felt the years passing without seeing any great change, 
as he measured the condition of such a parish as Poplar 
against the dull platitudes which he heard in high 
places, his denunciation took on a fiercer tone. The 
articles which he published in The Pilot just before his 



death are a scathing criticism of " the genius of the 
Church of England." 

" She is tied to a perfectly unworkable system, with 
no power of adapting herself to modern needs. She has 
had now for many generations, and still has, a perfect 
genius for destroying all enthusiasm, a genius for getting 
rid of her best unless her best will become common- 
place. Is this too hard a description of the Church of 

In the unhappy bishops he finds the centre and head 
of the offence. " They have but one opportunist canon 
of dogma : be commonplace, be respectable, after the 
sober-minded ritual of the Church of England." "On 
no question of any importance, religious or social, have 
the bishops given any lead to their people unless they 
have been driven to it." We are left with " nothing 
but a complacent failure." Undoubtedly the strain of 
the work, the perpetual begging for the machinery of 
the parish, and the absence of colour and life, the 
intolerable weariness and content of his East London 
people, were here telling upon him. " We are as a 
whole bloodless and anasmic." " At Portsmouth our 
chief duty was to repress ; here it is to incite " this 
is the burden of his cry. He saw wrongs unrighted all 
around him ; the poor perishing and no man laying it 
to heart. He found overcrowding, with the laws pro- 
tecting the poor always evaded. " My people," was 
his pathetic appeal, " have been dealt with unjustly." 
They have " never been given a chance. Think of the 
houses that they are born in, the overcrowding, the 
drains, the damp." " The law that safeguards the 
poor is always in the hands of those who do not put it 
into force." " Charity only makes people meaner and 
baser, and will never prove the solution of the problem." 



He demanded in the names of these disinherited millions, 
not charity, but justice. The spirit of the child delight- 
ing in its life gave place to the spirit of the strong man 
having work laid upon him to do and straitened till 
it be accomplished. He went down to his death, 
appealing to the whole Church " for the righting of 
wrongs that cry continually into the ears of the Lord 
God of Sabaoth." 

Dolling' s radiant personality exercised a unique 
fascination upon all classes of men. The man was 
entirely sincere, filled with one persistent enthusiasm, 
the love of God and man. It is an Irishman with no 
respect for the sober conventions of English life. Some- 
times he is singing comic songs with his boys in the 
smoke-filled atmosphere of cellar or attic. Again, he 
is leading an agitation against the liquor interest, or for 
some measure of social progress. Criminals are sent to 
him, and those who have failed, and all receive welcome. 
He kept the affection and confidence of Winchester 
through all struggles and for ten years. He encouraged 
dancing and healthy joy, and loved especially his riotous 
soldiers and sailors. His mothers' meeting whom he 
addressed as " My Dears " was one of the most un- 
conventional of all his gatherings. In his church he 
varied simple extempore prayer with the elaborate pro- 
cession and ritual in which his people delighted. He 
scandalised enormous numbers of respectable persons. 
"With your ultra-High Church proclivities on the one 
hand," wrote the Warden of Winchester, " and your 
Socialistic teaching on the other, no sober-minded and 
loyal citizen can be expected to support the mission." 
" Last came Father Dolling," wrote a Protestant paper, 
" a biretta perched on his most disloyal head." "He 
stirreth up the people," writes Father Tyrrell, " would, 



I suspect, be the truest formulation of his ecclesiastical 
iniquities." And the opposition was not only stirred up 
among the Protestants. His social enthusiasms seriously 
offended numbers of those who supported his Catholic 
teaching. He threw open his church in Poplar for a 
meeting of protest against the East End Water Com- 
panies. " The withholding of rain from the district," 
wrote a scandalised shareholder, " is God's punishment, 
and to ninety-nine Catholics in a hundred, the present 
visitation upon the East End of London is consequent 
upon the appointment of Mr. Dolling to St. Saviour's." 
But at his death the opposition was drowned in the uni- 
versal recognition that one had gone whose place could 
never be adequately filled. He has set a new standard 
in the possibilities of the Church of England and its 
relation to the life of the poor. He stands within 
this communion, a figure filled with passionate zeal for 
justice and love of those down-trodden by the world ; 
one of a class mainly, alas ! confined to other branches 
of the Catholic Church. " Many hard things are being 
said against us " his farewell to St. Agatha's is a 
summary of his life " many doubt our loyalty to the 
Church of England. But you will believe us, I am sure, 
when we say that we have had but one single aim, to 
bring some poor people in a slum in Landport to the 
knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 



" They made me a, keeper of the vineyards : but mine own 
vineyard have I not kept." 


station has been built where thin branches of 
__ railway shoot off on either side from the main 
stem. And hard by the station have gathered the 
habitations of men ; so that the passing traveller sees 
a vision of little red houses nestling amid the cherry 
and apple orchards, with all round the long fields of 
hops and growing corn. Down these steel tracks, 
which stretch out straight over the level land till 
lost in the haze of the horizon, hurries all the traffic 
of Empire. As we wait, the drowsy afternoon is 
torn with a shriek and the earth shaken. In a 
whirlwind of smoke and fire the mail passes that is 
hurling through our quiet air passengers for Brindisi 
and Singapore. Then the train from which we have 
alighted gathers up its belongings and thoughtfully 
puffs its way after its violent comrade. Finally, in 
quite leisurely fashion, the quaint collection of carriages 
in the siding, with the antique locomotive at its head, 
makes up its mind to depart down one of the divergent 
branches. Drawing out from the little town sleeping 
so quietly in the June sunlight, it moves slowly up- 
wards from the plain towards the villages which lie 
among the hollows of the hills. 


The platform of each tiny toy station shows white in 
the sunshine, with green growing things and climbing 
roses pushing through the fences and over the white- 
washed palings. The town traveller, smeared with the 
hurry and dust of the cities, finds a sudden restfulness 
and serenity as he alights at one of tLese. When 
the train with its burden has passed onward, and the 
last echoes have died away, something of the great 
peace of the summer afternoon gathers round him, and 
envelopes him like a garment. In the little lane which 
leads from the station to the village the air is filled with 
the scent of grasses and the new-mown hay. On either 
side the full fields stretch upwards, with the clover and 
tall daisies making a tapestry of bright colours. There 
is no constant stillness. Now a light wind moves along 
the tree-tops. Insects with gauzy wings are dancing in 
the light. There is a rustling under the hedges and 
along the borders of the meadows. You can almost 
hear the music of the sap as it rises in its million tiny 
channels, pushing the growing life outwards into the 
buds and the petals of the expanding flowers. Life 
life everywhere : the song of laughing, overflowing life 
is the melody sung in exultation and content by all the 
world in these shining summer days. It is heard 
proclaimed in the hedges crowded with honeysuckle 
and wild roses, and the climbing plants rushing 
upwards towards the sun. It speaks from the little 
gardens with their fragrant old-fashioned flowers 
pinks and sweet-williams, and the glory of the tall white 
lilies. It riots triumphant in the weeds which have 
pitched their camps on the sides of all the country 
lanes, now waist-deep in tangled grasses : with shy blue 
flowers hiding in their depths, and above a blaze of 
yellow cups and white stars and crimson bells. A turn 



of the lane discloses suddenly the wide panorama of the 
plain from which we have climbed. Here is a good land 
and a large : a great green land with scattered red- 
roofed villages, and standing from their midst the white 
cones of the hop-kilns and the dark towers of village 
churches. In the boundaries of a remote distance 
brood the blue round-shouldered hills. Across the 
plain into some mysterious land beyond, run the straight 
white roads the white roads which lead to the end of 
the world. 

The land is fair always in the later harvest, when 
the promise of the year is fulfilled, with the cornfields 
and their sheaves alternating with the hop-vines under 
the blue sky ; or in the autumn, when all the leaves are 
gold, and the distant church spires stand out from a 
background of fiery splendour ; but fairest in the month 
of expectancy, of preparation, when the year has first 
gathered together the pageant of the early summer. 
These are enchanted days, from the clear brightness of 
the dawn, through the splendid oppression of the mid- 
day heat, down the long afternoon, till the sun drops 
behind the pine-trees, and the light glances level along 
the world ; and in the gathering twilight a thousand 
fairy lights kindle over the great plain, and on a still 
evening you may hear the sound of many bells. " Then 
shall the earth bring forth her increase." Some- 
thing of the exultation of the rich fulfilment of the 
promise has escaped in such seasons even into this 
island set in its grey northern seas. In the pollen- 
laden air, with all the scents and music of the world, 
the old apprehension of the miracle of the passing of 
dead matter into life, acquires a sudden vivid meaning. 
" He sendeth the springs into the valleys that run among 
the hills." " The valleys also shall be so thick with 



corn that they shall laugh and sing." "Before you the 
mountains and the hills shall hreak forth into singing, 
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." 


In one of these hroad fruitful valleys, facing the sun, 
and open to the delicate air of the south, stands the 
village which has held, since before the dawn of history, 
the homes of the passing generations of men. The 
houses gather round the green, and straggle in lessening 
avenues down the diverging roads. In the centre is the 
old inn, the focus of all social life, in the great parlour 
of which the ancients were wont to gather after the toil of 
day, smoking their long pipes in a soothing silence. Hard 
by is the blacksmith's forge ; the pond, with the shadows 
of the tall trees over it ; and the general shop ; and 
the little primitive school, with roses trespassing on the 
palings and knocking at the windows. The little thatched 
cottages have their wooden gates and fences, and their 
red-tiled footpaths, and their gardens gay with flowers. 
On the hill-top is the home of a family with a high 
record of service in Church and State, a great white 
house with a little chapel by it, within all gold and 
jewelled with coloured glass; and the tombs of old 
knights in armour with crossed legs and folded hands ; 
and the petition for the prayer of the passing stranger, 
that the place of those whose hearts once beat so high 
with passionate desire may at the last be found in 
peace. And up the road that winds through the 
woods and meadows is the little church, with its old 
Norman arch and square time-beaten tower, gathering 
round it the bodies of the humble, forgotten dead. 
Here was the centre of sorrow, exultation and pain : the 



home of mirth and weeping. The mysteries of Birth 
and of Death found here a meaning and significance. 
At length when the tale was told and the lights 
extinguished here were gathered enemy and friend, saint 
and sinner, in that sleep which henceforth nothing would 
disturb hut the trump of the Archangel heralding the 
last judgment of God. Ever within the vision of each 
patient toiler were the graves of his fathers, the place 
where he also would one day be laid. The tombs 
and gravestones travelled backwards to a near past. 
Behind were the shadowy figures of the dead, resting 
through all the centuries, whose blood still beat in 
those now for a season enduring the sunlight and 
the winter rain. And with the old church itself, 
the ivy-covered windows and grey arches and tower, 
which had looked down on so many hurrying gene- 
rations, thought is swept backward through the gulfs 
of time into a far-off England; which once hewed 
the white stone from the rock and raised these towers 
and high-roofed arches and swinging bells ; that in 
all the long ages to come, through the great awaken- 
ings and voyagings which were to carry men into 
stranger and more hazardous regions than those first 
pioneers ever dreamt of or desired, this fair building 
should testify to the imperishable faith of those who 
thus could build. 


It is all passing : crumbling visibly year by year, 
almost day by day : and the thought infects with a 
kind of austerity and sadness the glory of these rich 
June days. For into these remote valleys, long hidden 
unheeded amongst the hills, at length has entered Pro- 



gress : and Progress with all the strange uncanny shapes 
which follow in her retinue. At first the rout came 
timidly, with hesitating footsteps : later with impetuous- 
ness and a certain arrogance as of those with an accepted 
supremacy and triumph. The old inn is going under, 
defeated in competition with the new house, glaring 
in the raw hideousness of red and white paint ; the 
enterprise of a firm of neighbouring hrewers, with the 
publican a hired servant ; and active catering for the 
stranger and the insatiable thirst of travel. The black- 
smith is overshadowed by the corrugated edifice of the 
"Mid Kent Motor Company: Repairs executed at the 
shortest notice." The great house has been sold by the 
bankrupt heir of the old line to a family of German 
Jews. The chapel with its ancient tombs remains 
undisturbed: but the wealth of South Africa pours as 
through a funnel into the countryside, and converts the 
peasants who were sold with the estate into a race of 
parasites. Secure in comfort liberally dispensed, they 
are for the most part prepared to return deference and 
the aping of the old feudal life to masters of alien race 
and tradition. The little church is in the main deserted. 
Services are continued, but the bulk of the diminishing 
village population rarely attend. On Sundays they gather 
in aimless groups in service-time outside the new public- 
house or at the cross-roads to see the motors pass. The 
Motor is indeed the keynote of the newer changes. All 
these June Sundays a procession of wandering locomo- 
tives hustles along the roads and avenues. The air 
is vocal with their hooting and shrill cries, the ritual of 
the New Religion, as they clank and crash through the 
village, leaving behind the moment's impression of the 
be-goggled occupants, an evil smell, a cloud of grey 



Despite this revival of the countryside, the newest 
industry and recreation which is finding a market 
for so many derelict estates and bringing a fevered 
energy along the old roads of England, the people are 
slowly vanishing from the village and the surrounding 
fields. No one notes their departure, nor greatly cares 
whether they go or stay. The new wealthy live in a life 
of their own, careless of any responsibility for the peasant 
peoples surrounding them. And the fanner, adjusting 
with astuteness his industry to the newer conditions, is 
basking in a brief spell of prosperity. The land is pass- 
ing back into grass and pasture, cattle taking the place 
of men. In the new fruit farms and hop farms, during 
seed-time the work is huddled through by the old men and 
the children and the few who can be attracted to remain. 
And the harvest is reaped by nomadic hordes, lured out 
for a season from the slums of the cities, blinking in dull 
wonder at the strange world of sunshine and silences to 
which they have been conveyed. So first at fruit-picking 
and later at the hop harvest, the litter of their encamp- 
ments is manifest in the day, and the lights of their 
revelry shine far into the night. The casual labourers of 
the lowest depths of the cities are spewed out over our 
green land riotous and rejoicing. The old inhabitants, 
secure in the pride of ancient heritage, gaze dismally at 
the pandemonium. With such double assistance from 
above and beneath wealth which is the plaything of 
rich men above, poverty which is their scorn below 
rural England confronts the exodus of its peoples with 
a stout heart and undismayed. 

Only the magic of the evening becomes charged 
with a sadness in the memory of all the days that 
have gone and the homes henceforth for ever desolate. 
And in the stillness of the summer night, while the stars 



flash over the great plain and one hy one the lights 
of the villages go out into darkness, the silence with its 
cool air and scent of flowers drives home to the heart 
something of the sorrow of other lights extinguished, as 
the children of England pass from their own land into 
the cities where June itself is hut a memory. 


Far to the northward, as the shadow creeps over the 
valley, one can almost discern the great lights streaming 
up hehind the hills. In a momentary picture appears 
the vision of the labyrinth of lamplit streets, the crowded 
thoroughfares, the crowded warrens and tenements, the 
restless life of those who have gone. 

So in this June, with the magic of its passing hours, 
Time, which changes all good and evil things, fashions 
from the ruins of the old a newer England. 



HOW to get there ? That is not easy, because it 
is the place of all forgotten things. But across 
the river you may find municipal trams inscribed with 
its inspiriting title, and by elbowing out a few tired 
workgirls and edging away aged men of battered 
physique obtain the desired seat. You journey tardily 
for immense spaces of time past a moving show of 
shadow shapes of mean houses, in which airy nothing 
has taken a local habitation and a name. The texture 
changes from slum to suburb and from suburb back to 
slum. At length, amid an impression of rawness, 
public-house, and red brick, the final jarring outrage 
of the municipal brake announces your destination. 

The cemetery made it first, established as far from 
human intercourse as was compatible with a reasonable 
fare for the conveyance of the remains of the departed. 
In the old English village the dead were buried in 
friendly fashion round the most frequented centre, the 
village church. In the old English town the houses 
gathered comfortably by the churchyard in a kind of 
sanitary reformer's nightmare. For in former days it 
was desired that the dead should be unforgotten, and 
death should be much in the minds of the living. But 
in the modern city, eager with its pursuit of material 
comfort, nothing is less desired than the evidence of the 



end of it all, the presence of those who before disquieted 
themselves in vain. The emblems of mortality are apt 
to weaken the zeal of the pursuit of a corner in pork or 
an accumulation of much goods in store. So it came 
to pass that the dead were hurriedly shovelled into the 
ground at Upper Tooting. 

And as through the presence of the dead the place 
seemed secure, gradually there followed all other things 
that it is desirable should be hidden away. Wandering 
solitary in the Tooting uplands, amidst turnip fields 
and coarse yellow charlock, I lighted suddenly upon 
some of these. On every high hill towered a monstrous 
building of that particular blend of austerity and dignity 
dear to the municipal mind. Each was planned of vast 
spreading dimension, with innumerable blank windows, 
surrounded by high polished walls. Down below in the 
valley, conveniently adjacent to the cemetery, was the 
immense fever hospital, a huddle of buildings of corru- 
gated iron. In front was a gigantic workhouse ; behind, a 
gigantic lunatic asylum ; to the right, a gigantic barrack 
school ; to the left, a gigantic prison. Other shadowy 
and enormous buildings rose dimly in the background. 
Yet even the presence of these monuments of ruin could 
not arrest the eruption of mean streets, driven forward by 
the pressure behind them of unthinkable numbers. All 
round the fever hospital crept their red tentacles, the 
slums of the future little red terraces leaning against 
each other as if reluctant to advance, yet pushed bodily 
forward, ending in builders' chaos and the indecent, 
naked skeletons of terraces yet to be. 

The discovery of these fortress prisons threw sudden 
light upon a problem which had often proved difficult. 
In Italy and the South the English visitor is shocked 
and saddened by the spectacle of the old, incredibly 



withered and wrinkled, lying in the sunlight and beg- 
ging of the passer-by. Where are the similar old of 
England ? At last I had found them behind high 
walls, at Upper Tooting. Here also are our brigands, 
enemies of society, where they can trouble society no 
more. In the South are the young also, begging, 
uncared for, unless subtly kidnapped by the Church. 
Our orphan young, safely guarded from that Church's 
activities, are secure at Upper Tooting. So by a 
smooth-working, efficient machinery all superfluous 
and unnecessary things are sorted out and ticketed 
and packed into the places prepared for them. 

As I gazed at these large silent palaces on the 
cold winter afternoon I was able to frame some 
picture of this ordered and regular existence. All 
would be smooth, polished, spotlessly clean ; warmed 
by hot water, and with a steam laundry. Par- 
ticulars would be scheduled and classified; sanitation 
upon the latest methods ; dietary calculated by a 
scientific scale, with bread weighed by the ounce and 
calculated to a crumb. Discipline would be perfect, and 
movements directed by the sound of a bell. Each 
institution had its chaplain. There was probably in 
each a library of edifying books. Hundreds of thousands 
of pounds had been expended upon every building, and 
the expense was borne universally, and, on the whole, 
contentedly, by the citizens who lived in the warmth 
far away. Gradually there rose before the inward eye 
some vision of the life within : and with that vision the 
apprehension of much before inexplicable. From the 
turnip fields of Tooting I apprehended the British 
Empire and something of its meaning ; why we 
always conquered and never assimilated our conquests ; 
why we were so just and so unloved. Amidst alien 



races we have brought rest and security, order out 
of chaos, equality of justice, a patient service of recti- 
tude which is one of the wonders of the world. Yet 
there is not one amongst these alien peoples who 
would lift a finger to ensure the perpetuation of our 
rule, or shed a tear over its destruction. For the spirit 
of that Empire clean, efficient, austere, intolerably 
just is the spirit which has banished to these forgotten 
barrack-prisons and behind high walls the helpless 
young and the helpless old, the maimed, the restless, 
and the dead. 

Night fell as thus dismally I mused amongst the 
vegetable gardens of Upper Tooting. The fortresses 
which marked the bulwarks of British civilisation 
loomed menacing in the twilight. A cold wind stirred 
the discoloured grasses. A bell clanged mournfully 
from the distant prison. I shivered and fled the scene : 
with a vague discomfort which did not disappear till I 
had again mingled with the procession of mean street 
and shabby edifice ; had recrossed the river and recog- 
nised again the kindly familiar buildings, the ample 
eating-houses, the crowds, if insurgent, unconfined. I 
shall never see Tooting again, but the memory of it will 
mingle with many a disordered dream. And when I 
hear, as hear I do daily for my sins, large men with 
chains and seals and rings discoursing upon modern 
Imperialism, the Empire, the decadence of Southern 
races, and the unparalleled results of modern progress ; 
I say nothing, for nothing could make them understand. 
But there rises the vision of the bleak hills and the 
fortress prisons crowning them, gaunt and silent in 
the dying day. And the eloquence becomes charged 
with an atmosphere of varying emotion : ironical ; a 
little fantastic ; not lacking in tears. 



not send a philosopher to London," wrote 
Heine, " and for heaven's sake do not send a 
poet. The grim seriousness of all things, the colossal 
monotony, the engine-like activity, the moroseness even 
of pleasure, and the whole of this exaggerated London 
will break his heart." The statement appears to the 
plain man but the sneer of the unpleasant foreigner, 
scarce concealing his eager envy. The stuccoed 
squares, the grave evidences of accumulation, the lines 
of terraces attesting a placid opulence small wonder, 
thinks the plain man, that the unpleasant foreigner 
gnashes his teeth and rails in fury. And those to 
whom the plain man counts for nothing and the 
stuccoed terrace appears but vanity turn again, and yet 
again, to hymn the praise of "London." The city 
standing " at the entering of the sea," the picturesque 
centre of the commerce of the world ; the golden glory 
of Piccadilly in a summer sunset; the river with its 
dreams of a dead past that cannot die, immortalised in 
the " London Voluntaries " ; the mystery and magic of 
the November twilight in street and alley who has not 
cut his tooth in salad days with the first proclamation 
of these discoveries? 

Only with widened knowledge and the greyness 
which life brings does the aspirant learn that these 



are not London. He has fallen into the common error 
of mistaking "London" for London. London is not 
the City, spinning the financial web of the world. Nor 
is London the squares and parks and gardens westward, 
and the places of healthful or of desolate pleasure. 
These are but the accidents and chance development : 
alien to the essence, the soul of London. As a pleasure 
city " London " is surpassed by Vienna, as a centre of 
wealth by New York, as a home of art and literature by 
Paris or Pekin. But London is neither a pleasure city 
nor a centre of wealth nor a home of art and literature. 
London is an aggregation amorphous and chaotic : 
six and a quarter millions of humanity. The aggrega- 
tion is composed of a homogeneous substance : the City 
Dweller a novelty in the world gazing out upon the 
universe from a crowded street, in a swarming mob, 
from over the shoulders or beneath the legs of his 
fellows. He is coagulated into a broad smudgy ring 
round the city which lives and moves. He dwells 
apart from the city which desires and is satisfied. 
Realisation of his existence, in its aimlessness and 
acquiescence, chills as with a sudden bleakness the 
feverish enthusiasm of the minor poet for the glory 
and greatness of London. 

Who will interpret the soul of this London this 
condensation of the unimportant which for a century 
has sucked in the life of the country districts, and is 
now turning out a third or fourth generation crushed, 
distorted, battered into futility by perpetual struggle 
towards no rational end ? Observers have attempted 
the task, and all acknowledged failure. G. W. 
Steevens, after sizing up America and India, is bidden 
to perform similar service for London. He walks 
through it from south to north, from east to west. 



He notes its markets, ita food consumption, its 
drainage system; he finds himself bewildered, baffled. 
He abandons the effort as beyond his powers. Charles 
Booth assails the problem with a staff of helpers. He 
issues seventeen stout volumes, life, labour, religion, or 
the lack of it, of the people Class A, Class B, maps of 
blue, yellow, and red of brilliance and complexity. He 
confesses he is no nearer estimation at the end of it all. 
Figures by the hundred thousand, woven into curves, or 
condensed into tables, statistics of overcrowding, of 
drunkenness, of pauperism, of crime, all pass like a tale 
of little meaning, though the words are strong. The 
age still waits for the interpreter of this, the strangest 
riddle of the modern world. 

Yet this essential London should not be a compli- 
cated study. Knowing the life of one, you know the 
life of all. Only no one has yet apprehended the life 
of that one. The city is, for the most part, an end- 
less series of replicas similar streets, similar people, 
similar occupations : crowded existence, drifting through 
the choked and narrow ways. You journey on the 
tardy tram by stages linking together conspicuous 
gin-palaces, the only landmarks of successive regions : 
now you are in "Walworth," now in " Peckham," 
again in "Deptford." The varying titles are useful but 
deluding. The stuff is homogeneous, woven of drab 
buildings and a life set in grey. Lay down an inter- 
minable labyrinth of mean two-storied cottages. Pepper 
the concoction plentifully with churches, school-build- 
ings, and block-dwellings of an assorted variety of 
ugliness. Cram into this as much labouring humanity 
as it will hold, and then cram in some more. Label 
with any name, as Stepney or Kentish Town. You 
have in essence the particular ghetto that you desire. 

161 M 


Beyond this ring the blotch we term London sprawls 
into still more unknown and desolate regions whose life 
is clogged and heavy owing to their distance from the 
central heart. On the one side, in a lopsided and 
monstrous outgrowth, the city spreads out into vast 
shallow suburbs of the labouring classes, stretched over 
the marsh land below the level of the sea. Here are 
districts so far removed from the place of work as to 
have become mere gigantic dormitories. Man rises up 
a great while before day to go forth to his work and to 
labour until the evening. The whole margin of life of 
the labourer disappears in the transit. The scuffle into 
the city, the prolonged and odorous journey, the scuffle 
out again, the hastily wolfed-up meal, curtailed sleep, 
represent the home life of the people. To these for- 
gotten, nameless regions, apart from the inhabitants 
themselves and the occasional forlorn dust-collector, 
" no man comes, nor hath come, since the making of 
the world." On other margins of the city the texture 
insensibly is transformed into something quaint and 
strange. The lines of cottages protrude into bow 
windows. Children are scooped inside instead of dis- 
charged outside the houses. The population clothes 
itself in black coats, entertains yearnings after respect- 
ability, and attends on Sunday places of public worship. 
This is Clerkdom : Dulwich and Clapham and Harringay ; 
where pale men protest Imperialism and women are 
driven by the tedium of nothingness into Extension 
Lectures or the Primrose League an uncanny and 
humorous region, illuminated with perplexing ideals. 

But these regions are also parasitic. London in its 
characteristic product is the city of the ghetto. Here 
gather the unparalleled masses of the obscure. They 
are members of no trades union. They are inspired by 


no faith in progress. They are forgotten, as it seems, 
alike of man and of God. Labouring populations, in 
which no one rises above the rank of the local publican, 
outnumber the inhabitants of many great kingdoms. 
The dreariness of their lives does not depend on their 
poverty. They are scourged with specific ills, of which 
no outsider knows or cares. But the tragedy resides in 
their acquiescence : the absence of eager revolt and 
protest: the listless toleration of intolerable things. 
They extend under sunshine and darkness, an inter- 
minable acreage, shabby, impotent, grotesquely negli- 
gible. They imbibe open-mouthed any specious illusion, 
cheering for blood when full of meat, when meatless 
clamorous for plunder. Few know of their existence : 
none realise its import. Populations of great colonies 
or European capitals could be torn from them without 
appreciable diminution. Who would even be conscious 
of change if, say, Wandsworth or Hoxton vanished with 
to-morrow's sunrise? A wave of human life has silently 
become pent up into a menacing congestion. There has 
been nothing like it before in the history of the world. 
Please God, after its destruction there shall be nothing 
like it again. 

What of the race that is being reared in this stagnant 
marshland, lying aside from and unmoved by the stream 
of progress ? No one knows. It is a portentous vision 
of silence : a mob drifting from the cradle to the grave, 
without ever rising to articulate speech. No poet 
immortalises himself in " Ballads of Bermondsey," or 
" Lines written in dejection near Haggerston." No 
passionate protest from Pentonville rouses as with a 
trumpet-call. No Camberwell woman's love-letters 
disturb the serenity of the literary horizon. Visitors, 
indeed, from a different universe of being penetrate 



these regions, attempt to crystallise into words the 
cloudy emotions of the ghetto. A Gissing will set 
himself to record the life of the decent and the ignohly 
decent. A daily newspaper will encourage the con- 
fession of their half-baked theologies and atheisms. A 
Davidson will proclaim, with a kind of scorching flame, 
the futility of life at thirty bob a week. But these 
interpretations remain, for the dissected subject, things 
distant and unknown. Noise, indeed, he makes in 
abundance in his brief passage between two Eternities. 
The play of children, the mirthless jest, the quavering 
militant melody, the sounds of contest and blasphemy, 
rises continually towards the quiet stars. He has been 
discerned emerging from beyond the river at daybreak, 
or trampling among his friends in a scuffle for the tram 
to convey him to his lair in the gathering twilight. But 
the mystery of the inner springs of his existence, the 
happiness, acquiescence, or discomfort of life as viewed 
from the sixth story of a block- dwelling or the half of 
a house in a mean street, are locked up beneath that 
harassed inscrutable face of his, a secret he will carry 
with him to the grave. 

Such is the Burden of London : unfelt by the 
majority who pass by : weighing like a nightmare upon 
some of those who gaze forward towards the coming 
years. The vision is of London not, like the Holy 
City, at unity with itself: but a manifest object-lesson 
in a nation falling asunder, " being old." To-day we 
discern a race which is separating into communities 
profoundly ignorant of each others' existence : cities of 
artisans, cities of clerks, cities of labourers, cities of the 
wealthy. At bottom this is for the most part a parasitic 
population : from which the higher energies are not 
demanded, and by which in consequence these are not 


supplied : lacking the pushfulness of the artisan of the 
North as much as the ohstinate endurance of the 
peasant of the fields. We apprehend hundreds of 
thousands engaged in the supply of artificial wants, in 
carrying people from here to there, in ministering to 
the changing fashion, or pandering to the unchanging 
appetites of men. And we recognise a population 
destined ever to extend. Greater London in less than 
thirty years is to amount to ten millions. The main 
part of the increase will be woven of this drah material. 
North, east, south, and west the aggregation is 
silently pushing outwards like some gigantic plasmo- 
dium : spreading slimy arms over the surrounding fields, 
heavily dragging after them the ruin of its desolation. 
And Tooting and East Ham, and Plumstead and Silver- 
town, are boru into a world which shows no joy at their 
advent. Humanity staggers at the vision of the next 
generation : uninvigorated by the influx of the country 
life, ravaged by the diseases of overcrowding in dwelling 
and area, dulness, vacuity of labour, and lust for artificial 
excitement : dead to the faiths which once provided a 
tangible background to existence. 

" Revolving this and many things," one can note the 
astonishing prescience of a poet of the far-back, long- 
despised, " early Victorian " era, who found in the 
blind Bull-god of the spoil of Assyria the image of 
the god of this people ; having wings but not to fly 
with : and eyes, but not to look up with : bearing a 
written image engraved of which he knows not, and 
cannot read it; crowned, but not for honour: 

" Those heavy wings spread high 
So sure of flight which do not fly, 
That set gaze never on the sky, 
Those scriptured flanks it cannot see. 



Its crown, a brow-contracting load, 
Its planted feet which trusts the sod, 

O Nineveh, was this thy god, 
Thine also mighty Nineveh ? " 

But until the end is revealed no man can know whether 
this or some other god be indeed the god of the city. 



struggle between belief and unbelief," said 
JL Goethe, " is the only thing in the memoirs of 
humanity worth considering." And the problem of 
the religion and general outlook on the world which is 
likely to be evolved by an age of tranquillity and comfort 
is the problem which most immediately faces the civilisa- 
tion of to-day and to-morrow. For the first time in 
many centuries, and especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, 
in England, in parts of America, and in the Colonies, 
we see a race developing who have experienced nothing 
but a serene and ordered existence. From the beginning 
they have been sheltered from the disturbing elements 
of life. They do not possess imagination necessary to 
realise that this is an abnormal and transitory phase of 
the world's development. All their accepted ideas in art, 
ethics, and religion, are inherited from times when this 
tranquillity was lacking. They are becoming vaguely 
conscious that for them the language is strained, ex- 
travagant, unreal. They have no conception of the 
meaning of such a cosmic upheaval, the disarrangement 
of a universe, as, for example, the great disturbance 
of '89 in France or the deliquescence of the whole 
social order before the invader in 1870. Even Nature's 
catastrophies have been sedulously removed. There is 
no fear of great epidemics, and only the occasional remote 



and unrealised echo of such an unexpected destruction 
as that of Martinique. Undoubtedly the contrast be- 
tween such a life as that of Dulwich or Toronto or 
Dunedin and the life of all the past must implicate the 
coming of great changes in human life and its outlook 
upon the world. 

Towards Nature, towards himself, and towards the 
apprehension of any spiritual principle outside and 
behind these, man's ideas are becoming profoundly 
modified. In Nature he has come to recognise the 
element of permanence. He is at home for the first 
time in an orderly world. The old fear the panic 
fear of some sudden menace no longer lurks in the 
shadows. The feelings of horror with regard to Nature 
and its operations and the feelings of insecurity are 
passing away from the minds of men. The general 
view of Nature which this new race is cultivating is 
that of the well-ordered watering-place which is the 
sole experience of most of them : a cleaned beach, 
breakwaters to temper the rough onslaught of the sea, 
with promenade and pier and safe playing-ground for 
the children, and the faint, emotional strains of the 
nigger minstrels in the evening. 

And the progress of intelligence has drawn each man 
closer together to his neighbour. The world has 
become one. With an absence of any large and im- 
pelling impulse towards reform, men are vaguely desirous 
that all their neighbours should enjoy some sort of 
similar comfort to their own. Mr. Gilkes, in his little, 
most suggestive essay on the subject, has emphasised 
this restlessness in face of the evidence of pain. " They 
do not wish any longer," he says, " that regulations 
made by man should keep men from working and playing 
as they ought to work and play. A man can no longer 



eat his dinner comfortably when there are heneath him 
dungeons full of his fellow-creatures whom his own act 
has placed there, however strictly legal that act may 
be, and consequently there is a general impatience of all 
privilege, all excess of possession and of comfort." 

With this altruism which finds its expression on the 
one hand in the largeness of so-called charity, and on 
the other hand in the general demand for the Churches 
to cease to strive towards impossible perfections and 
spiritual ardours, there has come a tendency to acquiesce 
in an average standard of attainment. In a recent con- 
troversy bearing the title "Do we Believe? " the popula- 
tions of the suburbs poured out their hearts in the columns 
of a daily paper. It was instructive to note the general 
revolt from the violence and disturbance of religions 
which drove men and women out of their accustomed 
ways. The demand came more and more to con- 
centrate upon a vague, amiable philanthropy. The 
less reputable sins were to be banished. The duty of 
man was to lead the life of the good citizen, voting 
in parliamentary if not in municipal elections, and at 
Christmas-time making liberal provision for the feeding 
and clothing of the poor. 

The sense of sin and of a great humility and all the 
vast machinery of aspiration and penitence which have 
gathered around these, have become clouded in the 
minds of the dwellers in the modern cities. 

But it is in the relation of man to God the greatest 
changes are evident. With the coming of this gospel 
of decency and good manners there has vanished those 
ardours and agonies of the soul whose interest now 
appears mainly pathological. No one can be blind to 
the process, accompanying this diffused ethic, of the 
weakening apprehension of spiritual things. 



"If he received some sign," says Mr. Gilkes again, 
" to show him what he should do, some sign which 
showed him when he was in danger of doing wrong, 
which revealed to him his ideal, he might do right con- 
tinually ; but he receives no sign ; perhaps once in a 
month or a year he sees his ideal plainly and God 
plainly, but often, even before he reaches the end of the 
road where he was when he saw it, the colour has faded 
from what he saw. He says the words which he said 
before, but they are dead words, and he would no longer 
go readily to death for the truth which they express." 

When in time of order the new revolution is success- 
fully accomplished, there are some who will look forward 
with longing to the change beyond the change. In 
the provision of elements of permanent value for the 
life of man periods of disturbance have always been 
more conspicuous than periods of certitude. The times 
of disorder and unsettlement when men suffered from 
oppression, trembled in terror before vague and inexplic- 
able forces, were ravaged by great plagues and lived 
always in uncertainty, were the times which produced 
the highest developments of art and the finest flower of 
human character. When man was doubtful if he would 
see to-morrow's sunrise he built as if not dreaming of 
a perishable home. To-day when he cannot believe 
that death will touch him, and his orderly life stretches 
forward as an endless end of the world, he will leave for 
the amazement of future ages the Crystal Palace and 
the City Temple and the Peabody Building. 

Dr. Arnold, in his " Survey of History," came to the 
conclusion that after all the changes of the past the 
world was now entering into a course of steady, orderly, 
and consistent development in a phase from which the 
unexpected would be abolished. Man would sit down 



comfortably in a world whose forces at length he rightly 
estimated. It was a belief characteristic of an early 
Victorian Age unable to conceive of any more perfect 
life than that represented by its mahogany sideboards 
and its material opulence. It is a more hopeful view 
that we are on the edge of a process of profound change. 
Ruins if furnished with plush and alpaca and labelled 
Brixton and Holloway, will not provide a permanent 
habitation for the soul of man. Assuredly the con- 
dition of the ultimate flower of the process of evolution 
in the expanding middle class of England and America 
is not a condition of stable equilibrium. They cultivate 
habits of regularity. They weave themselves into 
other men's ideas. They are cut off from disturbing 
realities. They attend places of religious worship ; but 
they hear language of ancient liturgies wrung out of 
passion and terror which seems to them archaic or 
meaningless. They are conscious of a vague, emotional 
satisfaction at an evening service or singing the hymns 
of childhood. Sometimes they feel a little queer at the 
death of a child or at the signs of the coming of old 
age. Occasionally, despite the avoidance of Nature and 
its mysteries, some old memories, the smell of Spring 
and Autumn, a wind blown into the city with the scent 
of flowers or up the river from the sea, stir into momen- 
tary disquietude emotions which have lain long buried 
under the weight of custom and routine. Love and 
Birth and Death, those divine Anarchists, are always 
disturbing, as Plato apprehended long ago, to any satis- 
fied civilisation. These, with the exultations and 
agonies which form their " great allies," may be trusted 
to disintegrate any society which has banished mys- 
tery from its midst and turned its back on realities ; 
and set itself down to use and wont, pitiful pleasures, 



and the obstinate fear of change ; and put aside the 
heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible 

How the change will come it is impossible to foresee. 
Perhaps there may arise the sudden and unexpected 
outbreak of forces fermenting among the neglected 
populations, of whose existence and whose hunger for the 
material goods denied them this ordered state has but 
little apprehension. Perhaps, as in a former period of 
Imperial peace, a universally awakening consciousness 
may protest the futility and worthlessness of it all. 
Weariness will come of the " impracticable hours " of 
life divorced from passion and emptied of high, spiritual 
enterprise. However excited, those concerned with the 
soul's development rather than with the attainment of 
material comfort will be prepared to welcome the change. 
For such change will tear down the veil of comfortable 
things, velvet and cushions and fine clothes, which man 
will always raise if he can between himself and the 
unknown. Behind are the realities with whom he is 
never at ease, and whose acquaintance he is always 
anxious to elude; himself: the world of real things; 
God Who is the Beginning and the End of all. 



TO assail one who has bewildered many decent 
people and added to life a new literary inspiration 
is a thankless and dismal task. To join issue with 
Mr. Chesterton, whose work is a perpetual stimulus to 
humility and astonishment, would appear but a mournful 
ingratitude. Nevertheless, it is time for some dull 
person to raise the banner of protest, however sober 
and grave, against the philosophy of life which Mr. 
Chesterton is steadily hammering into the brain 
of the English householder. The very brilliancy 
of his weapons, the paradox, the bold metaphor, the 
statement which leaves one doubled up and speechless, 
the divine lunacy of his intoxicated inspiration, foretells 
the success of his onslaught upon things customary, 
honoured, and secure. Avowedly in his criticism as in 
his poetry, as he acknowledges in his preface to his 
" Defendant," Mr. Chesterton is preaching a philo- 
sophy, maintaining an attitude, announcing a creed. 
We now possess in his collected works a consistent 
volume of doctrine which can be contemplated as a 
whole. Essays on " Chesterton as a religious teacher " 
will soon be utilised at the older universities to stimulate 
aspiring merit with mean monetary compensation. Before 
this consummation arrives it is well that the immorality 
of such a creed should be demonstrated. 



With the side issues raised by Mr. Chesterton I am 
altogether in sympathy. It is but the main contention 
which is ultimately vicious. That Mr. Chesterton 
should seek to defend the obsolete and neglected virtue 
of Patriotism is a subject rather for praise than for 
blame. That he should endeavour to arouse Kensing- 
ton to consciousness of its proximity to the Eternal 
fires should make for Kensington's righteousness if not 
for Kensington's equanimity. That he should attempt 
to interest the English people in the English Bible a 
work much read by their forefathers is a commendable 
if desperate enterprise. That he should hail himself as 
God is only to be deprecated by some rival claimant to 
the title. But that he should profess a blasphemous 
contentment, associate pessimism with minor poetry, 
and extol the average decent citizen for his average 
decency, partakes of the nature of that sin for which 
there is no place for repentance, though it be sought 
bitterly and with tears. 

" I have investigated the dust-heaps of humanity," 
announces Mr. Chesterton, " and found a treasure in all 
of them." No one doubts the treasure in the dust- 
heap. The difficulty lies in the apprehension of the 
treasure in the drawing-room. The jewel is manifest 
in that which humanity discards. It is less discernible 
in that which humanity retains. Mr. Chesterton holds 
that all dross can be converted into gold by the believing 
mind. Nothing is either good or bad, he would say 
with the Danish optimist, but thinking makes it so. 
Assert in firm tones that all things are very good, and, 
lo ! all things are very good. It is a simple creed, and 
yet pleasant when one considers it. In the spirit of his 
capering maniac Mr. Chesterton traverses the world 
charging himself everywhere with contentment and 



triumph. A drunken man reels out of the beerhouse, 
zigzags heavily down the pavement, clutches wildly 
at vacuity, and flops into the garbage of the gutter. 
To himself he is a mass of internal discomfort, a 
dulled vacancy, and the earth an unkind stepmother 
springing up to knock him down. To Mr. Chesterton, 
observant, he is the living representative of the happy 
peasant, the modern pastoral idyll, and his soul is with 
the stars. The good citizen is journeying through 
the tube, portly, double-chinned, reading Bright Bits 
and breathing heavily. Should he but spring upwards, 
Mr. Chesterton holds, prance wildly down the carriage 
and spin round like a Dervish, he would inaugurate the 
golden age. Surbiton is a city of mystery and enchant- 
ment, Penge and Poplar suggest a restored fairyland, 
Wapping is the antechamber to the Kingdom of Heaven. 
All perspective is levelled in such a dreary morass of 
satisfaction. Mr. Chesterton is convinced that the 
Devil is dead. A children's epileptic hospital, a City 
dinner, a political "At Home," a South African 
charnel camp, or other similar examples of cosmic 
ruin fail to shake this blasphemous optimism. At the 
least he would design to make the Author of Evil die of 
chagrin at persistent neglect, or perish from the reple- 
tion of persistent flattery. The scheme is attractive 
but delusive. That ancient strategist has seen so many 
Chestertons flare and fade that he is unlikely to be 
entrapped by such naive methods. Nor will the in- 
clusion of good and evil in a higher synthesis, 
embracing both in a universal approbation, create 
any permanent or lasting peace in the war which is 
being everlastingly waged on earth, as in heaven. 

Progress has never been effected but by persistent 
toil and the emphatic demonstration of the wicked- 



ness and sorrow of the world. Mr. Chesterton's 
creed will act as a disintegrating force upon the never 
very secure foundations of this edifice. He will not, 
indeed, be able to convince a man that his own tooth- 
ache is good ; but he may succeed with alacrity in 
assuring him of the sanctity and desirableness of the 
toothache of others. Here is a citizen who presents at 
times a singular combination of the hog and the hyena, 
with the seed of a god stifled beneath deep rolls 
of avidity and desire. All effort towards fructifica- 
tion of this seed is effected only by the sudden 
flashing into his face of some monstrous and un- 
negligible wrong. Show him a cab-horse about to 
trample on a child, and, at the cost of considerable 
bodily discomfort, he will effect a rescue. Raise a 
barrier of use and wont between him and the children 
which he dully knows are perishing and he will consume 
his dinner with withers unwnmg. A holocaust of four- 
teen thousand children was demanded, with all the 
incredible accompaniments of bereavement, loss, and 
longing, before he realised in blear-eyed manner that 
away in South Africa his clumsy hoof was crushing 
something delicate and divine. Tell him that (say) 
Bermondsey is a blasphemy of stunted, distorted 
existence, outrage alike on God and man, and he 
may be startled into the effort towards reform. 
Tell him, as Mr. Chesterton tells him, that down 
in Bermondsey the gas lamps are fairy bubbles, the 
atmosphere is magical and charged with emotion, that 
each fuddled toper is in Paradise beneath the approval 
of the eternal stars ; with a deep content, thanking 
God that he is rid of a knave, he turns him again to 

Mr. Chesterton holds that all things are very good. 


He may assert that he has a certain reputable precedent 
for such a statement. The plea cannot be entertained. 
God found all things " very good." Such a discovery is 
a prerogative of divinity. No man can look on God 
and live ; and no man can live who sees things as God 
sees them. Mr. Chesterton would urge us to believe 
that each man's life is illuminated by the same light 
which he himself discerns, though it were never on sea 
or land. It is the pathetic fallacy, eternally untrue. 
" The same sun shines on the windows of the alms- 
house as on the walls of the castle." Never was there 
a profounder delusion. The sun which shines on the 
castle is not the sun that shines on the almshouse. 
Contentment terminates in mortification. Complete 
satisfaction is indistinguishable from death. 

Mr. Chesterton, alive himself, would fain persuade us 
that other men and women are alive. He assumes a 
point which he would find it impossible to prove. Men 
and women have been alive : there are intervals in the 
career of the most obscure when they should be alive. 
But the chief accusation against the modern city is 
that it has choked so many innumerable human lives : 
a mob moving who are dead. Compared with this 
outrage, the massacre of actual assassination fades into 
insignificance. At three periods, at least, humanity 
should rise above the line of life. For a moment they 
should live as children, in the world of fairyland peopled 
by a strange and kindly race who pursue generous 
action. For a moment they should live again when 
through sudden, passionate, inexplicable emotion men 
and women look into each other's eyes and realise their 
kinship with the stars. And for a moment they should 
live at death though the experience, it has been 
noted, usually comes too late in life to be of much 

177 N 

practical utility. But in the life of the modern 
crowd crushed into a mass of blurred humanity 
these avenues of the spirit are choked and blighted. 
Childhood is clumsily spoiled and broken by the mis- 
placed ingenuity of the " Grown folk, mighty and 
cunning." Courtship is the panting pursuit of Phyllis 
by Strcphon round the block-dwellings, or the sombre, 
nudging pilgrimage through a city of dreadful night. 
And most men die with a grunt or a bleat, lamenting 
the lack of gin, or protesting that they could drink 
pea soup. We have never seen a man die, was 
Thoreau's challenge; because we have never yet seen 
a man alive. 

Once man apprehended that God walked with him 
in the garden in the cool of the day. Then he could 
lift his eyes to the magical world about him and 
Heaven's unchanging stars. Now the Archangel stands 
at the entrance with the flaming sword in His hand; 
attesting, on the one hand the effort needed for 
return, on the other the futility of acquiescence in any 
lesser aspiration. Mr. Chesterton would assuage the 
divine hunger by the pretence that outside the wilder- 
ness is fair. The man with the muck rake can obtain 
the golden crown, not by the painful effort to look up- 
wards, but by weaving the sticks of the floor into a 
coronet and assuring himself that it is gold. Man has 
wandered into the wilderness and solitary places. It is 
well for him if here he finds no city to dwell in. Mr. 
Chesterton would urge him to build booths of boughs, 
assure him that Paradise is here or nowhere, expound 
to him the grandeur of the desert scrub, and the glory 
of the desert sand. Far on the horizon shines the 
Land of Promise, demanding first for its attainment a 
divine discontent and an eager pushing forward. Effort 



unwearying, the sweat and blood of men, the wreck of 
a thousand lives, a world travail of pain, has been the 
price men have paid for permission sometimes to 
whisper to each other in the twilight that all things 
are very good. The ultimate tragedy of history, at 
which the sun veiled his face and the pillars of the 
earth were shaken, was necessary in order that humanity 
might be able to cherish for nineteen disordered centuries 
the desperate hope that God is Love. 



IN pursuit of my trade as a reviewer of books it befell 
a while ago that I was reading two volumes deal- 
ing with subjects of especial interest. The one was a 
description, compiled with enthusiasm and pride, of the 
triumphs of the New America. The other was a record, 
a little sentimental, but very pleasant and simple, of 
the lives of the followers of Francis. And the chance 
combination of two such subjects set one a-thinking. 
The new America exhibits a nation definitely 
organised for one purpose, straining every nerve and 
sinew to attain that end. "Business" is the all- 
absorbing interest ; by the side of which nothing else 
counts at all. The nation is joyously set on the com- 
mercial conquest of the world. As in former times the 
people organised throughout as a military race was 
enabled to trample down all rivals, so in a commercial 
age the people which has with devotion moulded every- 
thing towards commercial energy is destined to crumple 
up its less single-hearted competitors. The vision is 
presented of a life where all other interests are ruth- 
lessly planed away. In parallelogramed cities of 
monotonous architecture, amid the shrieks of whistles 
and the noise of telegraphs and monsterphones, a vague 
impression appears of eager men in a crowd. They rise 
hastily from sleep to rush from factory to counting- 


house, consuming meals in their shirt-sleeves and toiling 
with a rude energy which is one of the wonders of the 
modern world. Leisure, solitude, art, literature, medita- 
tion, religion all these are brushed aside as by-pro- 
ducts, apart from the main business of life. Socialism 
has made less progress than in any other civilised 
country : with each man possessing the marshal's baton 
in his knapsack, why turn aside to raise all to the level 
of lance-corporal ! High above the throng tower the 
figures of those who have attained : a Jay Gould, a 
Vanderbilt, a Carnegie, who started with the proverbial 
penny. Such unified energy is producing its results. 
Already the old nations, with their militarism and their 
ideals, are feeling the commencement of the strain : the 
cry has gone forth for a Europe united against the 
common enemy the new Barbarians knocking at its 
doors. But the flimsy barriers which such a Europe 
can erect are destined to be swept aside. The figures 
of commercial progress for even ten years in America are 
something stupendous ; in steel, in oil, in pig, in cotton, 
the output springs upward in a night. For the moment 
there is respite while the internal markets absorb the 
energies of the factories; but in a few years' time 
America will once more leap forward to the commercial 
exploitation of the world. In the perfect adaptation of 
means to an end and the throwing over as lumber of all 
that does not subserve that end she stands unrivalled. 
We bow to our future conquerors. 

America is changing beneath our very eyes. Yester- 
day's books concerning her are antiquated ; descriptions 
of ten years ago are hopelessly out of date ; between the 
writing of a book and its publication half its facts have 
changed. Yet the New America still awaits its inter- 
preter. What exactly is the meaning of the events 



daily recorded ; not in terms of oil or pig, but in their 
inner and larger meaning ? What is the significance, 
i.e., of the vast system of popular colleges in the cities 
of the Mississippi Valley ? What contribution to 
human welfare is provided by (say) Athens, Georgia ? 
What exact function in the spiritual progress of man- 
kind is performed by the Sixth Methodist Episcopal 
Church of Minneapolis ? These are the kind of problems 
upon which we seek light. 

American civilisation has " come to centre about the 
conception of life as a matter of industrial energy." 
With rude strength, utter devotion, and boisterous 
energy, the American capitalist and worker have com- 
bined in alliance for the commercial exploitation of the 
world. Life itself vanishes in the terrific elaboration 
of the giant machine. In America there are " two 
kinds of slaves, the nigger and the white." Youth 
is everywhere evident. " Under the new strenuous 
regime there are no old men." Men as well as machines 
are thrown with reckless disregard to the scrap-heap. 
"America is paying more for her industrial success 
than we would care to pay ; more, indeed, than humanity 
can afford." The women alone live. While these read 
books, discuss art, or pilgrimage through Europe, the 
men, in the midst of the shrieks of whistles and the 
clang of machinery, provide a panorama of a stampede 
from counting-house to factory, wolfing up meals of 
oyster-stew in an atmosphere of perpetual dyspepsia. 

"Where are all your old men ? " asks the visitor as 
he gazes at young, tired faces everywhere. " Come up 
to the cemetery and I will show you," is the genial 

The Spanish war marked a deep-cut moment of 
change ; and the American nation is still intoxicated 



by the ease with which it crumpled up an historic military 
power. To the other nations of the world its entrance 
into Welt-politik has been like a descent of a brigade 
from the planet Mars, wielding a force singularly potent, 
absolutely new, and not quite accountable. The result 
has left the American people, on the one hand, with the 
legacy of great possessions : "an American Empire is 
arising." Forgetting their greatest President's dictum 
that "the Almighty never made a people good enough 
to rule over other people," stimulated by the alluring 
claptrap concerning the White Man's Burden and the 
Trustees of Progress, with the unlimited possibilities 
of trade exploitation that "expansion " always provides, 
they have set themselves to the task of elevating the 
Philippines and Cuba to the civilisation of Chicago. 
And on the other hand, with the taste for blood once 
whetted, their appetite for large interventions has been 
aroused. So they lecture Roumania on its treatment of 
the Jews, consider the possibility of intervention in 
Turkey, and elaborate a Navy for fresh conquests. In 
a few years the lectures are destined to find their fruit 
in action : and with that action the Coming Race enters 
into its heritage. 

Turn from this vision of the complacent, shouting 
twentieth century to the pictures of the influence of an 
ideal in that strange Europe of seven centuries ago. 
Life is rude and troubled. Wars and brutalities abound, 
the Empire and the Church are fighting for a world 
mastery ; wolves, as in Salimbene's picture of the 
miseries of the time, howl under the walls of the 
little cities of Italy and at night enter the towns and 
devour men. There is little comfort and no content. 
Life has not yet come to revolve round an economic 



centre. But in all the chaos of a world but imperfectly 
comprehended, full of fear and strange adventure, there 
are interests leading to high spiritual endeavour and the 
triumph of the soul. The wonder is not in the unique 
and gracious figure of Francis. This, indeed, is a 
miracle. But similar if less complete miracles abound 
in the history of Christendom. But it lies in the spirit 
of the sons of Francis : in that madness from beyond 
the boundaries of the world, which fell upon so many 
quite ordinary men, merchants, soldiers, citizens, who 
in this century might have served a Beef Trust or 
engineered a corner in wheat. After twelve hundred 
years, attempts had again been made faithfully to follow 
the life of the Master. The living example of the 
Christian life had once more proved its appealing power. 
And the thirteenth century recognises for a moment at 
least the key to the secret of the transitory life of man. 
By the end the spiritual impulse is fading into the light 
of common day ; the followers of Holy Poverty are 
becoming less faithful in their allegiance. But even at 
the end, a hundred years after the Blessed Francis, the 
new Art is drawing all its inspiration from his life and 
teaching. Dante is proclaiming the greatness of the 
Franciscan ideal ; and such a miracle can happen as 
that strange pilgrimage of kings and cardinals to the 
mountains, to bring down from his refuge amongst the 
clouds a hermit who in a moment of madness or 
inspiration had been elected to the proudest position in 
the world, to inaugurate the golden age. 

Haunting the whole of this tumultuous and fascinat- 
ing time is the ideal of the Great Restoration : the 
sense of impending change in that visible revelation of 
the Kingdom of God to which the best minds turned 
with the eager longing of children. The third Kingdom, 



the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, was about to dawn. 
To-day, or at furthest to-morrow, the Angel of the 
Everlasting Gospel would proclaim the entrance of the 
armies of God. 

They are a fascinating company these children of 
Francis, the members of the new order of spiritual 
chivalry enrolled in the service of their Lady Poverty. 
First are those who were with him, Nos qui cum eo 
fuimus, possessing some infection as it were of the 
altogether personal charm that surrounds the little poor 
man of Assisi. Bernard, who had loved him so, died 
protesting " I feel in my soul that for a thousand worlds 
I would not have been other than a servant of Christ. 
Hear my prayer, that ye love one another." Eufino 
nursed him at the end. Giles in his high perch at 
Perugia spoke his rough words of common sense and saw 
visions of eternal things. Masseo's life was broken by 
the death of his master. Leo, the pecorello di Dio, the 
little sheep of God, so humble and patient, could kindle 
into fierce anger at the violation of the rule in the 
building of the great Church of San Francesco, the 
wonder of the world. And after these came the long 
succession of those who gladly took up the torch from 
the first followers, rejoicing in the revelation of the 
secret. In front are a few selected figures : Salim- 
bene, the kind-hearted gossip and traveller, in whose 
Chronicles lives all the life of the mediaeval world; 
or John of Parma, the great General of the order, 
journeying on foot from house to house along the roads 
of Europe, taking the humblest place and the meanest 
duties at his visitations, as befits the greatest in 
this stronge reversal of human standards : in the 
banqueting-hall of the king found amongst the tables of 
the poor. The strangest, most attractive figure is 


Jacopone da Todi, with his austerities and his joyous- 
ness ; his tender songs over the Christ Child and his 
poetry, through which breathes the open air and all 
the hot, coloured life of Southern Italy : " sun and sky 
and flowing water and flower-lined roads." Visions of 
unimaginable sweetness attend him in his prison ; the 
End in Good unimagined and measureless Light is ever 
before him ; he weeps " because love is not loved " and 
" would fain have suffered for the demons in hell and 
have seen them go before him into Paradise." At his 
death " it was believed," says the chronicler, "by those 
standing near that he died, not so much conquered by 
his malady, though that was grave, as from an extra- 
ordinary excess of love." And behind these greater 
figures is a multitude ol forgotten common people 
who have caught fire at the message and whose life has 
become transformed ; as those who set out to convert the 
Mohammedans, or the Friars that came joyfully singing 
into Stynkynge Alley in the city of London in Eng- 
land, or the obscure and shadowy figures who are 
discerned tending the lepers or following the track of 
the great armies to nurse the wounded and bury the 

Later there is conflict between the strict and the 
relaxed ; the world rolls in again and stifles the ideal ; 
and the faithful retire to the mountains with gloomy 
prophecies of ruin to become the soured and bitter 
Fraticelli of the fourteenth century. But in this early 
time the vision seemed not far away. There is a strange 
reason, a kind of disordered common sense, an unanswer- 
able and rather distressing logic, subversive of the 
respectabilities and the gospel of success about these 
followers of Madonna Poverty. Here are none of the 
austerities and contempt of the world, the pitiless 



laceration of the body of an earlier and gloomier time. 
Though pilgrims and strangers, seeking a country, they 
go singing through a land which for them is very fair. 
They love all natural things the unclouded sky and the 
hot nights of Umbria. Lacking all possessions they are 
full of song in praise of God. They love all men and 
women, are passionately affectionate one to another. 
They are cheered by the abiding vision of the un- 
seen world. Life when released from the intolerable 
burden of possessions they proclaim as very good. 
There is a blitheness here, somehow vanished from the 
modern manufacturing city ; an absurd satisfaction in 
the picture of the world as a cloister lacking in the more 
up-to-date picture of the world as a factory. 

And despite the changes of the intervening years, how 
singularly contemporary is their appeal ! The Sacrum 
Commercium Beati Francisci cum Domina Paupertate, 
the prose version of Giotto's picture in the lower Church 
at Assisi in its eloquence and shrewdness the summary 
of the whole spirit of the Franciscan revival might 
have been written yesterday. St. Francis in his quest 
for Holy Poverty will go to the great ones and to the 
learned sages. This he did. But the great ones and 
the sages answered him hardly, saying, " What new 
doctrine is this thou bringest to our ears ? Let the 
Poverty thou seekest be thine and thy children's after 
thee. For us be the enjoyment of delight and the over- 
flowing of riches. For brief and full of labour are the 
days of our life and in the end of man what refuge ? 
Nothing better have we found than to eat and drink and 
be merry while we live." And the temptation of 
Avarice, determining to take unto her the name 
Prudence and speaking humble wise, might have been 
delivered by any ecclesiastical dignity explaining the 



" twentieth century spirit of Francis " in Sabatier 

" With all peace and quietness you can work your own 
salvation and others, if once your storehouse be full. . . . 
Will God not accept you if you have wherewith to 
give to the needy and are mindful of the poor? . . . 
What fear for you in the contact of riches, since ye hold 
them as nothing? Evil is not in things but in the mind 
for God saw everything that He had made and behold 
it was very good. So to the good all things are good. 
... how many rich men spend foolishly, whereas, 
if you had wealth you would turn it to good use : for 
your purpose is holy and holy your desire." 

An appealing vision was needed to combat a tempta- 
tion so subtle and plausible. It was found in the vision 
of that Lady Poverty as Giotto painted her who " alone 
clave to the King of Glory when all His chosen and 
loved ones left Him in fear." 

" I am not rude and unlearned, as many think; but 
ancient and full of days as I am, I know the nature of 
things, the variety of creatures, and the changes of the 
times. I have known the restlessness of the human 
heart, learning it now in my experience of the world, 
now by subtlety of nature and now by gift of grace. I 
was in the Paradise of God when man was naked, 
wandering through all that spacious realm fearing 
nothing. . . . There I thought to remain for ever. . . . 
Very joyful was I, sporting with him all the day, having 
nothing of my own, for all was God's." 

Back one is driven to the old haunting question. 
Which of these have attained the real secret of success 
these visionaries of Umbria long dead, or the solid live 
men who have made Chicago ? those who get, or those 



who give ? Truly if they were right then the modern 
world is altogether wrong. A modern novelist, M. de 
Coulevain, has attempted to represent the conflict of 
these ideals the product of modern America in its most 
cultured and effective form with this dream world of the 
past. His heroine visiting Assisi only expresses regret 
that St. Francis and St. Claire never married. The 
language of the Saints towards the real things of the 
Eternal world is uncouth and alien to her. "There will 
never be any saints in America," she confidently 

"No! No! I don't see an American divesting himself 
of his goods, preaching poverty and talking to doves. 
Instead of St. Francis we shall, may he, have men who 
will lessen poverty and make the world a more com- 
fortable place." 

Wealth accumulated as a reality, wealth distributed as 
an ideal here is the watchword of the spirit of the age. 
It may seem madness to cling to any divergent dream. 
Yet a certain suspicion still refuses to be stifled. " What 
shall it profit?" appears at times written large over all 
the monstrous buildings and shrieking factories. For 
long after Chicago and Birmingham and all the products 
of a complacent and mechanical age have become the 
habitation of bats and owls, men's hearts will still turn 
with longing towards the little brown cities of Italy, 
for love of those lives whose fragrance clings to their 
crumbling walls and appeals across the silence of so 
many dead centuries. 



MR. WELLS and Mr. Bernard Shaw are our 
two living prophets. Both have entered the 
profession, like the shepherd of Tekoa, by unorthodox 
ways. Both interpret the function of prophecy as much 
in the diagnosis of the present as in the forecast of the 
changes of the future. Both follow the New Testament 
in preferring the wicked to the mean. Both have faith 
in nothing but youth. "Every man of forty is a 
scoundrel " is the cheerful aphorism of the one ; and the 
other appeals always to the young men to enrol in the 
crusade for the New Republic. They survey the squalid 
course of contemporary life in England, from the cottage 
to the castle, with a kind of disgusted pity. They find 
in the life of the average Briton, his complacency, his 
dull pretence of wisdom, his dull thirst for gain, the 
random routine of his unedifying day, something which 
cries to heaven as an offence. Both call for the Super- 
man. But in the case of the one the call remains as a 
pious aspiration, a mere summary of revolt and weari- 
ness. In the other there is an attempt to ransack the 
springs of action, to drive down into fundamental things, 
to examine how, if at all, it is possible by breeding, by 
education, by social reconstruction to hasten the arrival 
of the Coming Race. 



A figure famous in the literature of Europe has also in 
these later years joined the prophetic company. M. 
Maeterlinck has progressed steadily from the method 
and atmosphere of a dead past, through the wisdom and 
destiny of the present, to the proclamation of his faith 
in the future. Examination of three writers of such 
varied talent and temperament should throw some light 
upon the problem of the days to come. 

Mr. Bernard Shaw, in his latest plays, reveals the 
attitude of revolt. He is tired of the tedious inepti- 
tude, of the persistent muddle of life. It is the man of 
forty ; disenchanted ; the mocking spirit confronting 
existence with a grimace and a gibe. All the earlier 
illusions have vanished. The ideals of the time which 
he would term the " eighteen-eighties " have passed like 
a dream. He sees life in its grim and ugly naked- 
ness, and he is filled with a hopeless disgust at the 
prospect. With one of his own characters he has 
"swallowed all the formulas, even that of Socialism," 
and found that he has eaten the east wind. The 
work of dramatic criticism commenced the process ; the 
completion was attained in experience as a Borough 
Councillor of St. Pancras. He heaps scorn upon pro- 
gress, sentiment, all effort to regenerate the world. 
The foolishness and vapidness of the upper classes, 
the "cricketers to whom age brings golf instead of 
wisdom"; the bourgeois with their respectability and 
their unclean reticence, the swinish multitude who are 
content to have it so all are equally repulsive. The 
method of the Fabian Society and the method of the 
Barricade are both "fundamentally futile." "Enough," 



he cries, " of this goose cackle about Progress ; man as 
he is never will nor can add a cubit to his stature by any 
of its quackeries, political, scientific, educational, religious, 
or artistic." There is merely an illusion of bustling 
activity ; no real advance. " I do not know whether you 
have any illusions left," he writes to "My dear Walkley," 
" on the subject of education, progress, and so forth. I 
have none." The world to him, as, he gravely announces, 
it was to Shakespeare, is " a great stage of fools, on 
which he was utterly bewildered. He could see no sort 
of sense in living in it at all." Vanitas vanitatum, omnia 
vanitas. He turns round and roars with laughter at the 
absurdity of it all ; the blindness of the little toiling race 
of men to the stupidity of its aspirations and the fatuity 
of its efforts. Like Gilbert's jester, when he has nothing 
else to laugh at, he laughs at himself till he aches for it. 
In the words of one of his characters in "John Bull's 
Other Island," he finds no jest so diverting as that of 
telling the truth. " The world will not bear thinking of 
to those who know what it is" is the burden of his cry. 
Huxley was prepared to hail a "kindly comet" which 
would sweep the whole affair away as a kindly consumma- 
tion. But since, in Mr. Bernard Shaw's pleasant words, 
" the revival of tribal soothsaying and idolatrous rites, 
which Huxley called Science and mistook for an advance 
on the Pentateuch," Nietzsche, with the gospel of the 
Superman, has shown a more excellent way. Mr. Shaw 
calls for the elimination of the Yahoo and the breeding 
of the Superman. 

In " Man and Superman," and " John Bull's 
Other Island," he has expressed in his own un- 
equalled fashion this bedrock scorn of life. In " Man 
and Superman" the old illusions and the new fret and 
strut their hour upon the stage. Here are Roderick 



Roebuck, of the eighteen-sixties, with his portraits of 
John Bright, Herbert Spencer, and Martineau, and his 
autotypes of allegories of Mr. G. F. Watts ; Mr. John 
Tanner, M.I.R.C. (Member of the Idle Rich Class), 
author of the Revolutionists' Handbook ; Anne, a "Vital 
Genius," representing " the Life Force " ; Hector 
Malone, an Eastern American, distinguished by " the 
engaging freshness of his personality and the dum- 
foundering staleness of his culture." The " new man " 
the " man of the future " is represented by one of 
Mr. Wells' s engineers, Straker, the chauffeur, educated 
at a Board School and a Polytechnic, of a brilliant 
and engaging vulgarity. Behind this company is the 
machinery which pulls the strings and decides the 
issue. In a dialogue between the Devil, Mozart's 
original Don Juan, Anne, and the statue of her father, 
a temporary visitant from heaven, is revealed the gospel 
of Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, and Shaw. 

Briefly, this is the futility of all things except the 
blind but persistent purposes of Nature which subtly 
checkmate the plans of the individual for happiness or 
suicide, and direct all things towards the perpetuation 
of the race and the coming of the Superman. The Devil 
who had left heaven because he was bored represents 
the disillusioned spirit. " In the arts of life," he says, 
" man invents nothing ; but in the arts of death he 
outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and 
machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence, and 
famine." " The power that governs the earth is not 
the power of Life, but of Death." Each generation 
thinks the world is progressing because it is always 
moving. " Where you now see reform, progress, fulfil- 
ment of upward tendency, continual ascent by Man on 
the stepping-stones of his dead self to higher things, 



you will see nothing but an infinite comedy ol 

To this Don Juan opposes his exaltation of Life, 
"the force that ever strives to attain greater power of 
contemplating itself." Against the citizen with his 
abject respectabilities and negations he uplifts the 
fanatic. He sings " Not arms and the hero, but the 
philosophic man." " Of all other sorts of men I 
declare myself tired. They are tedious failures." He 
sees modern pleasure-loving society dancing gaily to 
sterility. But he is confident in the victory of the Life 
Force, when " the plain-spoken marriage services of the 
Church will no longer be abbreviated, and half-suppressed 
as indelicate." With the expunging of the "unbear- 
able frivolities" of the "romantic vo wings and pledg- 
ings and until-death-do-us-partings," the real purpose 
of marriage will be honoured and accepted. The Devil 
gloomily promises a future of disillusionment and 
credulity. The Life Force will thrust mankind " into 
religion, where you will sprinkle water on babies to 
save their souls from me ; then it will drive you from 
religion into science, where you will snatch the babies 
from the water sprinkling, and inoculate them with 
disease to save them from catching it acciden- 
tally" ; then to politics, and other dusty and lamentable 
things. But Don Juan is persistent, and while the 
Devil deplores his failure with the Life worshippers, 
departs to heaven, of which a characteristic picture is 
given : 

" At every one of these concerts in England you will 
find rows of weary people who are there not because 
they really like classical music, but because they think 
they ought to like it. Well, there is the same thing in 
heaven. A number of people sit there in glory not 



because they are happy, but because they think they 
owe it to their position to be in [heaven. They are 
almost all English." 

The scene ends upon the earthly stage. Anne, the 
Vital Genius, stalks and captures her prey. Tanner 
recognises that " the trap was laid from the beginning 
by the Life Force," and yields while shouting his 
protests, and protesting that he would prefer to be 
hanged. He is gravely congratulated by the leader of 
the brigands. " Sir," says Madoza, " there are two 
tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. 
The other is to get it. Mine and yours, sir." And 
the curtain falls upon " universal laughter." 

"Violet (with intense conviction): You are a brute, 

" Ann (looking at him with fond pride and caressing 
his arm) : Never mind her, dear. Go on talking. 

"Tanner: Talking! 

" Universal laughter." 

" Universal laughter " is also the note of " John 
Boll's Other Island," and laughter that has no mirth 
in it, the only alternative to tears. The " anglicised 
Irishman" substitutes science for sentiment, and daily 
loathes himself more profoundly. The " Gladstonised 
Englishman " attains his heart's desire without ever 
apprehending the emptiness and foolishness of the 
figure he cuts in the sight of God. Heaven is 
once more pictured as a place of boredom and blue 
satin, mainly peopled by the English. Imagination 
curses one man, lack of it another. The peasant, 
freed, sets himself to squeeze the labourer. All are 
bought by flattery, which they know to be flattery, and 
yet accept joyfully. The dreamer who feels pity for all 
life is universally proclaimed as a madman. The world 



worshipping efficiency is announced as creating effi- 
ciently the machinery of labour and the machinery of 
pleasure, all turning to dust. Hotels, golf-links, land- 
purchase, membership of Parliament, ideals, desires, 
dreams this is the end of every man's desire. The 
eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with 
hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which 
shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun. 
That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and 
that which is wanting cannot be numbered. " I have 
seen all the works that are done under the sun, and 
behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit." 

Mr. Bernard Shaw sees the world a den of dangerous 
animals, amongst whom our few accidental supermen 
must live as precariously as tamers do, " taking the 
humour of their situation and the dignity of their 
superiority as a set-off to the horror of the one and the 
loneliness of the other." His cry for the Superman is 
little more than the cutting of a stick with which to 
emphasise the ultimate impossibility of the finite life of 
man. Amidst his world of supermen, undoubtedly one 
rebel against the common superiority would be Mr. 
Bernard Shaw, convicted of a horror and loneliness all 
the more real because there would be less obvious 
material for his pleasant and bitter discontents. 


The stones of Mr. Wells have thinly veiled, under 
the guise of scientific romance, an impeachment of pre- 
sent things. In the history of the " Sleeper " he shows 
in the future all the forces of the present ten times 
multiplied more noise, more confusion, more wealth, 
more poverty, more separation from nature, more blind- 



ness to aught but material things. Society has again 
passed into the condition of the later days of Rome, 
when, having attained an end and with nothing to 
anticipate, the springs of action have been choked 
with a world weariness. Later, however, in "Anticipa- 
tions," and " Mankind in the Making," and a " New 
Utopia," he has attempted a saner estimate of actual 
possibilities. The forces of life are estimated, as well 
as the forces of death : the revolt from the present and 
its unclean poverty and routine, the mess that man is 
making of life, becomes itself a guarantee that effort 
will be directed towards a better existence for our 
children's children. 

Mr. Wells is a master of the suggestive phrase which 
suddenly opens great issues. He pictures the student 
of divinity to-day coming " into a world futt of the 
ironical silences that follow great controversies." There 
is a whole universe in that single phrase. " To state 
these questions," he says of the Republican ideal, "is 
like opening the door of a room that has long been 
locked and deserted. One has a lonely feeling." Many 
a man with a youthful dream of noble things " peers 
to-day from between preposterous lawn sleeves or under 
a tilted coronet, sucked as dry of his essential honour 
as a spider sucks a fly." In his discussion of the sex 
question a sane and clean discussion of one of the 
most baffling of human problems he sees common 
human nature with a really dreadful insight. "I had 
purported to call this paper ' Sex and the Imagination,' " 
he says, " and then I had a sudden vision of the thing 
that happens. The vision presented a casual reader 
seated in a library turning over books and magazines, and 
casting much excellent wisdom aside, and then suddenly, 
as it were, waking up at that title, arrested, displaying a 



furtive alertness, reading, flushed and eager, nosing 
through the article." 

By such unflinching observation of the facts of the 
world around him does Mr. Wells justify his claim to 
preach the gospel of the New Republic of the Super- 

" Call ye that a Society," cried Carlyle seventy years 
ago, " where there is no longer any Social Idea extant ? " 
" One writes 'our present civilisation,' " re-echoes Mr. 
Wells to-day, " and of previous civilisations, but, 
indeed, no civilisations have yet really come into 
existence." With a kind of smooth and polished 
bitterness, Mr. Wells heaps up his indictment of 
the men of his time. It is all a little cruel ; too 
detached to be entirely pleasant : the author surveys 
the scrambling horde as the observer surveys the ant- 
heap or the locust crowd with a cold resentment and 
contempt. He has known something of the foulness of 
the struggle. He has been near to be himself suffocated 
in the swarm. He has escaped with no illusions con- 
cerning the heroism and loveliness of the average citizen 
of the Imperial race. All his onslaught could be summed 
up in a single challenge. Stand in the street of any 
modern English city and watch the stream drift by of 
shuffling, shabby bodies, of dissatisfied or vacuous 
minds. Or contrast in thought the ox-like seriousness 
over trivial things, the compromise and gross living of 
the prosperous middle-class citizen and his wife, with 
the vision of their radiant childhood. Mr. Lowes 
Dickinson has summed up his fundamental dissatis- 
faction with life in a picture of the active and graceful 
lambs transmuted by time into the stolid and silly 
sheep. It is to-day's progress of mankind. And the 
play of malign forces upon these beautiful children, 



with their possibilities of rational and refined existence, 
points all the sombre warnings of the message of this 
modern prophet. 

His purpose is to seek for remedy. He has been 
compelled to rule out, though with reluctance, a method 
that would appear easy and pleasant. Why cannot we 
artificially " breed " the Superman as we breed strong 
horses or fat cattle ? Because, in part, of our ignorance 
of the subtle laws of inheritance and the strange sports 
and variations it produces. Because, again, our Super- 
men will be different the one from the other, will em- 
brace a combination of qualities, so that even in the 
case of mere superficial physical beauty it is quite im- 
possible to choose a particular pair to produce a particular 
type in the second generation. And, above all, because 
it is the abnormal and the variation which are most 
useful to mankind : the genius trembling on the border 
of insanity, often flowering on a tainted stock ; the fiery 
mind of a Stevenson or a Henley pent up in a diseased 
or battered body ; the eccentric distortion of the saint or 
the hero. You can breed out, but you cannot breed in. 
You could conceivably eliminate all lopsided personality 
and produce a gross acreage of decent citizen. But the 
result would be a kind of a nightmare of the mediocre, 
a universal Brixton. 

At the conclusion of the record of Mr. Lewisham's 
somewhat squalid life history, his creator discloses a 
sudden illumination almost in the form of a revelation. 
The coming of the Child, with all its possibilities, 
reaching down to endless generations, takes this shabby 
little clerk from the cramped surroundings of his 
personal life, and gives him somehow a pathetic but 
real dignity as the steward of the heritage of all the 
future. In his later social appeals Mr. Wells attempts 



to awaken in his readers some thrill of the same 
emotion. In a whimsical picture he presents " all our 
statesmen, our philanthropists, our public men, gathered 
into one great hall," and regarding perplexedly "a huge 
spout that no man can stop," discharging " abahy every 
eight seconds." " Our success or failure with that 
unending stream of babies is the measure of our 
civilisation." As in the dream of a great novelist, he 
sees the might have been, the fair vision of an ideal 
of individual life which will never be realised, con- 
trasted with the mean and pitiful reality ; and with 
something of the fervour of a Hebrew prophet, he 
confronts the men of his time with the inquiry, Why 
these things should be ? 

" With a weak and wailing outcry, that stirs the 
heart, the creature comes protesting into the world." 
Already it is handicapped by ancestral sins and scars of 
body and mind. But from the first we increase that 
handicap, according to Mr. Wells, with our selfishness, 
our clumsiness, and our ignorance. First we slay an 
enormous proportion by preventable squalor and disease. 
The statistics of infant mortality reveal a holocaust 
of children, a " perennial massacre of the innocents " 
161 children out of 1,000 in Lancashire which is alone 
evidence of the survival of barbaric conditions. In one 
of the few passages in which the author has allowed 
his feeling to emerge from beneath the polished and 
scornful invective of his denunciation, Mr. Wells 
arraigns society in the name of these murdered children : 
" stiff little life-soiled sacrifices to the spirit of disorder 
against which it is man's pre-eminent duty to battle." 
Our civilisation has neither the courage to kill them 
outright, painlessly, nor the heart to give them what 
they need. 



" There has been all the pain in their lives, there has 
been the radiated pain of their misery, there has been 
the waste of their grudged and insufficient food, and all 
the pain and labour of their mothers, and all the 
world is sadder for them because they have lived in 

But those who have run the gauntlet of this hazardous 
infancy are in hardly a better plight. Mr. Wells shows 
by tables and statistics the far falling away, which is 
the destiny of the children of the poor, from any 
reasonable standard of physical development The con- 
sequences endure the fruit of bad feeding, mothers 
" battered and exhausted with child-bearing ; insanitary, 
ugly, inconvenient homes ; absence of fresh air and sun- 
light." These figures " serve to suggest, but they do 
not serve to gauge, the far graver and sadder loss, the 
invisible and immeasurable loss through mental and 
moral qualities undeveloped, through activities warped 
and crippled and vitality and courage lowered." 

But the child grows ; reason awakens the imitative 
faculties, the beginnings of will. In Mr. Wells's in- 
dictment of the cunning grown folk everywhere these 
are waiting for him : with bludgeons and clubs, with 
pitfalls dug for his unwary feet, with the grosser 
cruelty of their kindness. We begin by using the 
child as a plaything for ourselves : giving him foolish 
toys that he may be amused, talking "baby language " 
to him because it causes us vague satisfaction. As he 
grows older, we infect him with our mean compromises 
and shabby virtues. We rear him in the terrible sham 
genteel homes of the middle classes, which the author 
describes with a kind of cold fury. " A raging father, 
a scared, deceitful mother, vulgarly acting, vulgarly 
thinking friends, all leave an almost indelible impress." 



Then comes education. Of all Mr. Wells's hatreds the 
dreary farce we term middle-class education perhaps 
occupies the supreme position. With no thought-out 
plan, with a thousand inherited shams and inconsis- 
tencies, with an unctuous boast of moral influence 
and the teaching of a religion which we do not our- 
selves believe, we thrust the developing soul through 
the period of awakening passion. Some collapse and 
go under. Some hold on and develop into the kind of 
creatures of compromise which make up the horde 
of average men and women. It is all wrong all 
fundamentally wrong. The child, with all its infinite 
possibilities, has become even as one of us: a "suburban 
white nigger," with a thousand a year and the " conceit 
of Imperial destinies " ; or full of " the haughty in- 
capacity, the mean pride, the parasitic lordliness of the 
just-independent, well-connected English." 

It is a sombre picture of the raw disorder and mean- 
ness of average English life. The kind of picture when 
painted half a century ago by John Ruskin or Matthew 
Arnold, left English readers speechless with furious 
amazement. The men of to-day, with a less good 
conceit of themselves, will possibly receive it with a 
gloomy acquiescence. By the side of the " clean and 
beautiful child " Mr. Wells places in cruel contrast 
" the mean and graceless creature of our modern life, 
his ill-made clothes ; his clumsy, half-fearful, half- 
brutal bearing ; his coarse, defective speech ; his dreary, 
unintelligent work; his shabby, impossible, bathless, 
artless home." The author lifts the curtain for a 
moment on some phase of this creature's typical 
activity, "enjoying himself" on a Bank Holiday, or 
"rejoicing, peacock feather in hand, hat askew," on 
"the defeat of a numerically inferior enemy." The 



conversion of the one into the other he upholds as the 
persistent tragedy of modern life. 

No discriminating observer can contemplate the 
particular type of civilisation, or the lack of it, which is 
developing in Anglo-Saxon communities without pro- 
found disquietude. " He gave them their heart's 
desire, and sent leanness withal into their souls," 
might be written over all the vast material success and 
the fundamental spiritual poverty of the dominant race. 
Mr. Wells, passing to his remedy for these discontents, 
has found a less eager following. The astonishment 
and rather poor humour which have been evoked by the 
sweeping nature of his suggestions may indeed be put 
aside. Such criticism is merely the result of a lack of 
imaginative foresight. No social system could ever be 
more entirely incredible than the social system of the 
present day, if explained on paper to the denizens of 
another world. No possible changes in the immediate 
future could ever be more revolutionary and profound 
than have been the changes of the immediate past. 
A Government, by an adapted jury system, replacing 
the universal democracy ; the State subsidy to selected 
authors and critics ; the development of the " New 
Republic " ; the deliberate attack on the problem of 
poverty and low-grade life ; the large reorganisations of 
education all these which, to the dull mind, appear 
but fantastic dreams, will certainly be paralleled by 
equally disturbing changes before the century has 

It is rather in his fundamental theory of life and of 
human well-being that one would join issue with this 
acute critic. He believes, as ardently as the newer 
Fabians, in efficiency, that latest of the cries which 
Mr. Shaw covers with the violence of his scorn. He 



has a really remarkable faith in the power of revised 
organisation and government to modify the life of man. 
Strangely enough for such a shrewd observer of the 
tragic comedy of human affairs, he appears still to 
believe that the intellect, the human reason, counts for 
much in human progress ; that men may be reasoned 
into sanity, cleanliness, order, and an ardour for all 
excellent things. Whole pages of his books burn 
with the same generous fire as that possessed by the 
eighteenth-century French writers, or the English re- 
formers of the early Victorian school. The vast catas- 
trophe of the revolution in the one case, the prolonged 
sunset of hope deferred in the other, emphasised a 
lesson which humanity is always being compelled to 
re-learn : that as the razor to the granite rocks or the 
mooring thread of silk to the vessel, so is human intel- 
lect and reason confronting " those two giants, the 
passion and the pride of man." 

This pleasant intellectual enthusiasm extends even to 
free libraries, towards which Mr. Wells exhibits a 
devotion shared, one would think, by no one but the 
admirable Mr. Carnegie. " Give books," he cries with 
fervour ; diffuse useful knowledge ; increase " the 
amount of intellectual activity in the State." "Thought 
is the life of a community." " For three thousand 
years and more the book has become more and more 
the evident salvation of man." 

He has failed to realise the practical difficulties of 
amelioration and reform when the people, as a whole, 
are content to have things otherwise. He demands, for 
example, a " minimum standard of soundness and sani- 
tation " for houses and " legislation against overcrowd- 
ing." We have such minimum standard at present, 
and such legislation ; but the law is a dead letter. It 



is no one's interest to put it into force : it lies undis- 
turbed on dusty shelves. He assails again our present 
system of treating the children of vicious and drunken 
parents : using " the quivering, damaged victim " as our 
instrument for punishment of the parent. He would 
take the child away to an institution (though, as he 
wisely recognises in another place, these " institu- 
tions " are hut " aspects of failure "), and dehit the cost 
on the parent. The system is at present at work in the 
industrial schools. There is a continuous pressure 
on the part of undesirable parents to get rid of their 
children. But, as every poor-law guardian knows, the 
parent very shortly skips off and is lost in the crowd of 
the city, leaving the State to rear its ill-fated offspring. 
Nothing hut a German system of classification and 
registration could overcome this difficulty. But, in 
fact, as Mr. Wells recognises in his revised scheme 
of Government by Juries, we are faced, not as the 
prejudiced assert, with a breakdown in Democratic 
Government, but with a breakdown in all Government. 
You call for a Dictator, you organise a central Execu- 
tive, and you get the English War Office. You 
delegate authority and create local interest, and the 
result is the London Borough Council. It is a kind 
of deliquescence of character and responsibility. " The 
National energy is falling away." " Our workmen take 
no pride in their work any longer ; they shirk toil and 
gamble. And, what is worse, the master takes no pride 
in his work ; he, too, shirks toil and gambles." In his 
onslaught upon philanthropic institutions Mr. Wells 
indicates the truth. " They do not work " is his severe 
but just summary. " In cold fact it is impossible to get 
enough capable and devoted people to do the work." 
"Able, courageous, vigorous people are rare, and the 



world urges a thousand better employments upon them." 
It is the creation of "able, courageous, vigorous people" 
which is the crying need of the modern world ; with sim- 
plicity, tenacity, clean minds, and, above all, a personal 
responsibility and devotion for the gifts of body and 

There is no indication of the method by which such 
character can be obtained, only a message of desolation 
at its loss. 

To all the modern claim for character building and a 
moral training, Mr. Wells is frankly scornful. Religion 
is kept out of his survey, but there are enough occasional 
asides to show the direction of his thought and his con- 
tempt for the claims of " religious " instruction. " In 
spite of a ceremonial adhesion to the religion of his 
fathers," the author says of the modern man, " you will 
find nothing but a profound agnosticism. He has not 
even the faith to disbelieve." Till some such internal 
change or faith has come to him, and the society in 
which he moves, it is difficult to see how he can be 
saved. All manipulations of machinery will leave the 
heart cheerless and cold. 

Mr. Wells's books are crowded with excellent sug- 
gestions of social reorganisation, the clearing away of 
lumber and refuse, the oiling and cleaning and polishing 
of crank and wheel. But at bottom Mr. Wells is 
appealing to a spirit behind the material change. 
With the great eighteenth-century dreamers, he desires 
a fresh start. With Carlyle and all the school of the 
prophets, he demands a new heart ; in the old theological 
language, a mind set on righteousness, a will directed 
toward harmony with the will of God. He appeals 
to the young men. " After thirty there are few 
conversions and fewer fine beginnings ; men and women 



go on in the path they have marked out for themselves." 
What man over thirty so rings his challenge dares 
hope for the Republic before he die ? or for an infantile 
death-rate under ninety in the thousand, with all the 
conquered desolation that such a change would mean? 
or "for the deliverance of all of our blood and speech 
from those fouler things than chattel slavery, child and 
adolescent labour " ? With the young men and women 
lies all the hope of the future. A refusal to acquiesce 
may be in them a generous ardour for reform. Clean 
thought and a vision of better things may lead forward 
to a newer day. With this new spirit, which feels 
something of the sorrows of the world and its confusion 
alike as a reproach and a call to action, the fulfilment of 
the coming years may be " better than all our dreams." 


In sharp contrast to the bitter humours of the one 
and the energy of the other comes the serene out- 
look of the third of the prophets. M. Maeterlinck 
also is watching the night for the signs of the dawn. 
His attitude also is one of acceptance of modern pro- 
gress, and its transfiguration. He finds good in the 
world of the present. He will have nothing to say 
to the cry of disenchantment. He believes this pre- 
sent itself may be charged with significance and high 
ardour, adequate to all the demands of the human 
soul. With a note of triumph he turns from the 
long courses of human history, already hurried into 
a vanished past, to confront with eagerness and long- 
ing the flower and consummation of man's effort in a life 
more desirable than man has ever known. 

Much of his writing upon modern things is the work 


of fancy fancy not simple, but carefully elaborated 
rather than of imagination. Efforts to personify the 
motor-car, the "wonderful beast," "the dreadful hippo- 
griff," with description of its soul, its "terrible complex 
heart," " the mighty viscera," appear artificial and 
overstrained. His summaries of the flowers, the 
begonia, "pretty but insolent, and a little artificial"; 
the double geranium, " indefatigable and extraordinarily 
courageous " ; the nasturtium which " screams like a 
parrakeet climbing up the bars of its cage " are more 
quaint than illuminating. The reader recognises that 
the author feels compelled to make a certain effect, and 
the results attained are forced rather than spontaneous. 
But behind it all is that philosophy of practical life and 
outlook upon human affairs which bring M. Maeterlinck's 
writings as a real inspiration to many perplexed minds. 
He sees a universe from which the old lights have fallen. 
The schemes of salvation, the control of benignant 
spirits, the manifest presence of a Deity concerned with 
human welfare, having suddenly vanished from man's 
outward survey. He sweeps the heavens with his 
telescopes, and finds no God. He is driven to take up 
the business of life with no pillar of cloud by day or 
pillar of fire by night to guide him on his journey. 
" We are emerging (to speak only of the last three or 
four centuries of our present civilisation)," he says 
"we are emerging from the great religious period." 
The background, the " somewhat gloomy and threaten- 
ing background," which " gave a uniform colour to the 
atmosphere and the landscape," is to-day " disappearing 
in tatters." And the space the abode of our ignor- 
ance, "which after the disappearance of the religious 
ideas, had appeared frightfully empty, is gradually 
becoming peopled with vague but enormous figures." 



The "Void," the "Infinite," the blind and meaningless 
schemata of the sciences which have assumed the 
thrones of the elder gods, continue to put unanswerable 
questions to the bewildered minds of men. They put 
questions to us " and we stammer as best we may." 
But the " active idea which we conceive of the riddle 
in the midst of which we have our being " is opening 
gradually a " luminous and boundless perspective " 
which is destined to transfigure all man's activities 
and dreams. 

" We were, it might be said, like blind men who 
should imagine the outer world from inside a shut 
room. Now, we are those same blind men whom an 
ever-silent guide leads by turns into the forest, across 
the plain, on the mountain, and beside the sea. Their 
eyes have not yet opened ; but their shaking and eager 
hands are able to feel the trees, to rumple the spikes of 
corn, to gather a flower or a fruit, to marvel at the ridge 
of a rock, or to mingle with the cool waves, while their 
ears learn to distinguish, without needing to understand, 
the thousand real songs of the sun and the shade, the 
wind and the rain, the leaves and the waters." 

On the one hand there is this vision of hope and the 
enlargement of the human mind which comes from the 
apprehension of infinite horizons. " Though we no 
longer count, the humanity of which we form a part 
is acquiring the importance of which we are being 
stripped." The greatest dangers that awaited this 
humanity at its hazardous infancy have now been over- 
passed. " The instability of the seas and the uprising 
of the central fire " are to-day infinitely less to be 
feared. We may be permitted to believe that the peril 
of " collision with a stray star " may be averted for " the 
few centuries of respite necessary for us to learn how to 

209 p 


ward it off " : till we have learnt to " lay hold of that 
essential secret of the worlds which for the time being 
and to soothe our ignorance (even as we soothe a child 
and lull it to sleep by repeating meaningless and 
monotonous words) we have called the law of gravita- 
tion." We feel, therefore, in this age the greatness of 
expectation looking towards a revealing glory. " We 
are in the magnificent state in which Michaelangelo 
painted the prophets and the just men of the Old 
Testament on that prodigious ceiling of the Sistine 
Chapel : we are living in expectation, and perhaps in 
the last moment of expectation." 

" Expectation, in fact, has degrees which begin with 
a sort of vague resignation, and which do not yet hope 
for the thrill aroused by the nearest movements of the 
expected object. It seems as though we heard those 
movements ; the sound of superhuman footsteps, an 
enormous door opening, a breath caressing us, or light 
coming ; we do not know ; but expectation at this pitch 
is an ardent and marvellous state of life, the fairest 
period of happiness, its youth, its childhood. . . ." 

The one attitude is this of expectation, of inquiry, the 
sense of vast powers and purposes almost revealed. M. 
Maeterlinck's essays have the best quality of reverie. 
There is much directly reminiscent of Sir Thomas 
Browne ; reveries of life and death, of the mystery of 
things, of symbols and colours, and the secret meanings 
of signs and numbers. A fascination for the occult distin- 
guishes his latest work, for the spells and enchantments 
of the modern spiritualisms and thought-reading, and 
oracles and teachings which blossom now, as in former 
times, on the ruins of the great systems of religion. He 
will inquire concerning the mysteries of chance as seen in 
the dancing of the tiny ball on the roulette table at 


Monte Carlo. He will inquire again how it is, if the 
future, arising naturally from the changes of the present, 
is as real as the past, that the veil is never withdrawn 
which hides this real world from us. 

The other attitude is the attitude of contentment with 
the common things of life; the conclusion of the 
philosophy of the eighteenth century that "it is neces- 
sary to cultivate our garden." Under the mysteries 
already unfolded, amid the conflagrations of worlds and 
systems, undeterred by the vast solitudes of space and 
their enormous cold, M. Maeterlinck will cultivate his 
garden. Lightness and brightness are added to the 
vision of natural beauty. On the " motionless road 
where none passes save the eternal forces of life " 
spring comes and autumn, the rain and the sun, the 
silence and "the night followed by the light of the 
moon." It is no small thing that the world should 
grow fairer year by year, and men's hearts and the 
weather more gentle. " We live in a world in which 
flowers are more beautiful and more numerous than 
formerly ; and perhaps we have the right to add that 
the thoughts of men are more just and greedier of 
truth." "We are mastering the nameless powers." 
We are making our planet all our own. We are 
"adorning our stay" we should rejoice at it "and 
gradually broadening the acreage of happiness and of 
beautiful life." 

The curtain rises upon the violent revolt against the 
things of the present which Mr. Shaw voices the voice 
of a generation's disgust and weariness. The action of 
the play is along the lines of deliberate improvement 
outlined by Mr. Wells with such energy and appeal. 



And the curtain falls upon a vision of gentleness and 
tranquillity in the garden of flowers. 

Is this a forecast or but a challenge of the courses 
of human life in the civilisation of the West during the 
century which has opened with such uncertain dawn ? 



11 To the scientist the earth mutt for ever roll around the 
central solar fire : to the poet the sun must for ever set behind 
the western hills." 


corrodes all weakness and stamps strength 
_ with the guarantee of its approval. Examina- 
tion of its fretting upon the work of earlier enthusiasms 
is a task always fruitful, always mournful. Science, 
Literature, Religion alike are compelled to encounter its 
salt winds and subtle forces of decay. Science rests, it 
would appear, upon knowledge secure when attained, 
and henceforth indifferent to its ravages. Literature is 
the expression of man's soul in which Time can effect no 
change. Religion and its experience belongs to a time- 
less universe. Yet the man who, with candour, will 
examine the work of the years immediately past will 
find in none of these regions of human action that 
serene security. I can think of three authors which 
each at one time burst upon the mind with an over- 
mastering domination. Huxley had said the final 
word of the sciences. Mr. Swinburne represented the 
supreme expression of all that passionate youth desires 
of literature. Newman had penetrated to the ultimate 
recesses of the human soul within, and the revelation 
without of a hidden God. It is no unprofitable task to 
review after a decade what of these ardours still endures. 

How is time treating the man of science, whose name 
sounds through all the great intellectual conflicts of the 
past half-century? Huxley was indeed more than a 



scientific investigator. Writing a pure and nervous 
English, he plunged into varied fields philosophy, 
theology, sociology, the struggle for intellectual free- 
dom. In all these many hailed him as leader. Here 
time has already commenced the work of destruction. 
The enthusiasm stimulated by the vision of succes- 
sive scientific advances has become less strident. 
The " fairy godmother " whom he praised has proved 
powerless to abolish the evils of life. Pain and 
poverty still remain to trouble the little life of man. 
The Golden Age has been relegated to a remoter 
future. In face of a seven-million peopled Abyss of 
lives austere with want and crime, the famous alterna- 
tive which Huxley himself suggested, the " kindly 
comet " whose advent he would hail as a " desirable 
consummation," might seem a not unwelcome alter- 
native. In this and in other matters the spirit of men 
has undergone a profound change. His was an age of 
faith without belief ; ours, of belief without faith. He 
fought for a dismal nescience with the fervour and 
devotion of a Puritan. We have witnessed a spiritual 
revival, a reaction towards constructive belief and a 
faith in the unseen. But this faith is languid and 
spiritless. Men for the most part hold these things 
only tedious, and marvel at the excitement manifested 
by their fathers. 

Beyond the changes of the age, the work of Huxley 
can be seen in a clearer perspective. His vigorous 
certainty, the power of popular controversy which he 
possessed, the transparent honesty and truthfulness of 
the man, exercised a dominant influence upon his 
contemporaries. It seemed impossible to conceive 
that he could be in the wrong. To-day certain limi- 
tations appear. He was never a Liberal, either in 



politics or in the world of thought. He held in a real 
abhorrence everything represented by the name of 
Gladstone. To the most heroic and sincere of all 
English statesmen he found it difficult to award even 
the common virtue of honesty. Huxley joined issue 
along the whole line from Home Rule to the Gadarene 
pigs. He read into the political action some of the 
rather complicated and tortuous methods of the theo- 
logical controversies. He became convinced that he 
was dealing with a mind evasive and rhetorical, over- 
rated, leading England down slippery paths. Towards 
the end of his life he recognised that a kind of sacred 
duty was laid upon him to assail the Liberal leader 
at every vulnerable point. Nor was he a Liberal in 
thought. He fought, indeed, for tolerance. But he 
desired the toleration, not of opinion, but of his own 
opinions. His attitude, as Herbert Spencer told him 
unkindly and in a famous controversy, was that of a 
theologian rather than a philosopher. He refused 
resolutely to defend the baser and more popular 
atheisms. His treatment of the newer sciences of 
mental disturbance and obscure aberration was essen- 
tially similar to the treatment against which his own 
sciences had slowly struggled to recognition. His 
attitude to the Psychical Research Society to the last 
was one of contempt. One can imagine the disgust 
with which he would contemplate the respect and wel- 
come which have been given in later years to the work 
of this body of explorers. 

Sure of himself and with a power of relentless 
analysis possessed by but a few, he became the terror 
of all weak adherents of traditional creeds. Certainly 
he cleared the ground of much encumbering rubbish. 
Yet his philosophy, when viewed as a whole, shows 



strange inconsistencies, and his theological knowledge 
presents startling gaps. In philosophy he knew the 
English thinkers well, Hume and Berkeley; he could 
estimate upon the traditional English lines the problems 
presented by the newer knowledge. But he never under- 
stood Kant. All German metaphysics he dismissed as 
moonshine. He spoke for the moment, upon set occa- 
sion, and it is impossible to unify his often sensational, 
always noteworthy, lectures and essays into one con- 
sistent body of doctrine. In one place he pictured 
human beings as "conscious automata " with all future 
changes exactly determined by the past, and conscious- 
ness but as the shadow of the locomotive, accompanying 
but uninfluencing the progress of change. At another 
he breaks into a passionate assertion that human will 
" counts for something as a condition of the course of 
events," and urges each of his hearers deliberately to 
set himself to lighten the world's load of suffering. 
On the broad question of ultimate reality he fluctuated 
in quite an extraordinary fashion between an idealism 
and a materialism. At one time he compared the 
advance of law in the spiritual world to the advance of 
an eclipse upon a terrified sun-worshipper seeing the 
extinction of his god. At another he is roundly dismiss- 
ing all these " laws " and compulsions as gratuitously 
invested bugbears. On the moral question he definitely 
changed. At first he was laboriously pleading for a 
purely natural system of ethics, and the handy and ser- 
viceable garments which science would provide. Later, 
in his Komanes lecture, the most brilliant in style of 
all his work, he is tearing to tatters a " cosmic process " 
consummating only in the instincts of the ape and the 
tiger. In his theological excursions, acute and sugges- 
tive as they remain, his limitations are no less manifest. 



He knew the work of Baur and one or two other German 
scholars. The opponents he fought unfortunately knew 
less. But he was convinced that the whole fabric of 
the accepted religion stood as one piece. He had been 
brought up to hold verbal inspiration as the only legiti- 
mate theory. The rejection of a Garden of Eden or a 
Noachian deluge seemed to him the rejection of the 
whole of Christianity. Those who treated these 
stories in any but literal form he branded as disin- 
genuous and "wrigglers." He appeared never to 
have heard of Clement or Origen, or a time when 
while Christianity was making its greatest advances, 
these early legends were frankly accepted as allegorical. 
Such are the losses. What remains ? The man 
still stands as a great figure and character, for which 
the world is richer. He was strong, hewn from rock, 
trenchant of all shams and sophistries, honest as the 
day, stern often, but with a fund of passionate tender- 
ness only revealed to the outside world after his death. 
Ever a fighter, he delighted in battle with his peers. 
He loved the combat for the combat's sake. Yet he 
was ever courteous, generous, scrupulously fair, deter- 
mined never needlessly to offend. The honesty and 
utter devotion to truth is perhaps the outstanding 
feature. His letter to Charles Kingsley, in which, 
under the sudden agony of a strong man's suffering, 
he poured out to his friend the secrets of his heart, 
stands as one of the great utterances in the history of 
the life of the spirit. From the grave of his dead 
child he refused to delude himself with a hope which, 
could he only accept it, would have changed the face of 
the world. Like George Eliot, he resolved to do without 
opium. It was this resolute truthfulness which gave 
him the power to destroy with such sudden and over- 



whelming destruction such as Samuel Wilberforce. 
The scene at the British Association meeting at 
Oxford has become historic as one of the great 
episodes in the conflict between authority and progress. 

The record of friendships which kept such a body as 
the X Society dining together for so many decades ; 
the touches of home affection, the very human outbursts 
of impatience at stupidity and ignorance in high places ; 
the tenderness of the strong man towards children and 
the weak; the occasional passages of almost startling 
self-revelation, of half-wistful hope moderating the trucu- 
lent agnosticism as he confronts the mysteries of Life 
and Death these are the elements which reveal a 
character of an unchanging attraction. 

It is the strenuous life devoted to high ends. There 
is a very pleasant picture in his life of the Sunday even- 
ings in St. John's Wood in the latter years. In summer 
the family are gathered in the garden. Friends drop in, 
there is talk of the latest scientific results, of progress, 
and the smiting of the enemy. It is the afternoon 
of the successful man, golden, but with a touch of 
evening and the approaching night. There is that in 
plenty which should accompany old age : honour, love, 
obedience, troops of friends. Only in the end some- 
thing appears lacking. Perhaps the outlook entirely 
narrowed to a fragment of time and the success of a 
lifetime stands judged by a sense of larger issues beyond. 
It is Sunday evening. Outside the walled garden is a 
chaos of confusion and pain. And as the twilight falls 
there comes the sound of a world-old appeal renewed 
ever in humility and patience : " Pitifully behold the 
sorrows of our hearts. Mercifully forgive the sins of 
Thy people." 




Mr. Swinburne in the preface to the collected edition 
of his work, has surveyed the long progress from the 
day when " Atalanta " revealed a new and magnifi- 
cent force in literature, and later the first poems and 
ballads astonished and scandalised the world. He 
found nothing of which to repent, nothing to with- 
draw. He described the whole succession of changing 
subjects : the early poetry of passion, the songs of 
sunrise, the national faith and its heroes, the dramas, 
the poems of spiritual revolt, and the celebration of 
the coming dawn ; and after these the poetry of 
natural things and of childhood ; and, above all, the 
voice of triumph and longing which runs through the 
whole series, the " light and sound and darkness 
of the sea." Of the first, " there are photographs 
from life in the book," he asserted, " and there are 
sketches from imagination. Some which keen-sighted 
criticism has dismissed with a smile as ideal or imaginary 
were as real and actual as they well could be ; others 
which have been taken for obvious transcripts from 
memory were utterly fantastic or dramatic." To all 
that hubbub of anger of " the spiritually still-born 
children of dirt and dullness," the author was as 
indifferent then as he is to-day. 

But in the poems of freedom " there is no touch of 
dramatic impersonation or imaginary emotion/' They 
were inspired by " such faith as is born of devotion and 
reverence " ; reverence to a cause and to its leaders ; 
especially to " the three living gods, I do not say of my 
idolatry, for idolatry is a term inapplicable where the 
gods are real and true, but of my whole-souled and 


single-hearted worship " Landor, Hugo, Mazzini the 
last "the man whom I had always revered above the 
other men on earth." 

The appeal of the new spiritual sunrise, with the 
signs of the passing of the night of the older re- 
ligions Mr. Swinburne gathered up especially in " twin 
poems of antiphonal correspondence in subject and 
sound," " the ' Hymn to Proserpine ' and the ' Hymn 
of Man ' the death song of spiritual decadence, and 
the birth song of spiritual renascence." 

Such a defiant re-assertion of the faith of a lifetime 
is a challenge to all the memories of the past. I 
commenced, a boy at school, with the earlier selections, 
reading in mingled perplexity and tedium. The long 
sea poems of the second series of the " Poems and 
Ballads," with their difficult metres, their rhetoric, and 
their frequent obscurity, serve as about the worst 
possible form of introduction to Mr. Swinburne's poetry. 
And a volume which contained scarcely anything from 
the first " Poems and Ballads," and none of the greatest 
of the Atalanta choruses a volume omitting " The 
Garden of Proserpine " and the " Triumph of Time " 
and "Hesperia," with the "Songs before Sunrise" 
very inadequately represented, failed altogether to reveal 
the magic of the master. 

My conversion was effected later, at Cambridge, and 
at a lecture upon Swinburne by Mr. Frederic Myers. 
The instrument of the sudden change was the end of 
" Tristram " recited in the deep, impassioned chant 
which I suppose Myers had learnt from Tennyson. I 
can still hear the throb of the music as the emotion 
deepened to the splendour of that imperishable close : 



" Nor where they sleep shall moon or sunlight shine, 
Nor man look down for ever ; none shall say 
Here once, or here, Tristram and Iseult lay ; 
But peace they have that none may gain who live, 
And rest about them that no love can give, 
And over them, while death and life shall be, 
The light and sound and darkness of the sea." 

From that moment commenced an allegiance which 
speedily passed into an unfaltering worship. 

Then came the period, which most young men have 
passed through, of intoxication, when we would hurl 
Swinburnian imprecations upon " whatever gods may 
be," or in the interval between a football match and a 
hearty meal proclaim our thirst for annihilation to the 
unconscious stars. Time and the experience of sorrow 
wore down these earlier ardours ; much of the swing- 
ing stanzas began to appear as rhetoric, or at best 
eloquence, rather than poetry. Much also was revealed 
as so detached, cold, and separate from " the labouring 
world "as to give the impression of a hard, inhuman 
glitter and brilliance ; the brilliance of the Arabian 
Nights, the hardness and cruelty of the stories of 

But still the old spell in part remains. To-day one 
can again recall the fascination of the buoyancy and 
ardour, the waves of passionate eloquence, that violence 
of triumph and weariness which will make Swinburne 
always the singer of the springtime, and only pass when 
youth has vanished from the world. 

No poet has attained such general recognition of 
supremacy with less general acceptance of his ideals in 
life and literature. In a secure vitality, and with 
Death a thing incredible, we were all intoxicated with 
the poems of its praise. Later, with life passing, and 



the shadow lengthening on the hills, " the end of every 
man's desire " seemed something less desirable. It 
says much for the spells and sorcery of the enchanter, 
the magic of an outburst of music, alike mournful and 
triumphant, that the accepted verdict could even for a 
moment be denied, and men at the last gather to enlist 
under the defiant banner of defeat. 

For it is not death alone which is here commemorated 
in song. Not only the fascination of sleep and silence 
are celebrated in the hymn to Proserpine, and revealed 
in the unforgettable vision of her garden, with its 
bloomless poppies and dreams of forsaken days. Here 
is also the elevation of Destruction as against Creation, 
the denial of the desirability of life itself, the deliberate 
rejection of that exultation of Being for which the 
morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God 
shouted for joy. Mr. Swinburne ' v took the work of the 
Revolution and pushed it home, without that faith in a 
universal restitution which broke the seals and poured 
out the vials and loosened " the thunder of the trumpets 
of the night." He tears down King and Priest. He 
rages against all the ancient oppressive laws. He 
demands the clearance of the accumulated refuse of the 
dead. But this alone will not content him. Destruc- 
tion, renunciation, annihilation must be elevated in the 
place of the gods dethroned. And in the end he 
passes to a world vision of the work of dissolution 
accomplishing itself to its far conclusion: the earth 
and all its peoples passing, its hopes and hates, its homes 
and fanes, the bones of the grave and the grave in which 
they have been laid ; sun, moon, and stars crashing into 
the abyss : hell and the palaces of heaven and the older 
and the newer gods, and everything that is and has been 
and is to come crumbling into darkness and silence, with 



all that remains an enormous nothingness, an enormous 
cold. Others have gazed upon this picture with shudder- 
ing, while deeming it but a dream and a vision. Modern 
theories of Evolution have suddenly endowed it with 
fierce and insistent life. It was left for the century 
which felt the thing gripping at its heart to produce a 
poet who would confront it not with horror, but with 
exultation, proclaiming with a passionate violence the 
ending of all violence and passionxx' 

This is new in literature, and this must endure, 
the vision is not yet destined to vanish. A civilisation 
becoming more and more divided from sane and rational 
things is destined more and more eagerly to welcome a 
Gotterdammerung which will involve not only itself, 
but all existence in a cosmic desolation. Two great 
and emotional appeals against this assertion of an 
elemental despair lie in the early work of Mr. 
Swinburne. In the choruses of the " Atalanta " is 
the revolt rather than the acquiescence of man in 
such an ending. " Because thy name is life and 
our name death " ; because " thou hast fed one rose 
with dust of many men " ; therefore " all we are against 
thee, against thee, O God most high." And in the 
" Songs before Sunrise," with their celebration of national 
resistance to Imperial supremacy, a resistance congruous 
with " the actual earth's equalities, air, light, and night, 
hills, winds, and trees," manifested in the European 
struggle for the liberation of the smaller peoples, the 
worship of Proserpine vanished before the vision of a 
splendid dawn. 

Later Mr. Swinburne turned back upon the national 
cause : and with that desertion his inspiration fell from 
him like a garment ; so that with each successive volume 
of fluent verse men said sadly to one another : " There 

225 g 


was a Swinburne." These later productions form a 
study of profound sadness. With the poems arranged in 
order of writing, and surveyed as a whole, the volumes 
might not untruthfully be labelled " the dying of Genius." 
To turn from the opening of the " Poems and Ballads " 
to the close of the " Channel Passage " is to turn from 
life to death. Youth has gone, and with youth the 
passionate faith in high, disinterested causes. The 
poems leave a nasty taste in the mouth ; the taste of a 
snarl and a sneer. Much might appear as a parody 
of Swinburne written by a reporter of the journalism 
of the day. The injunction to the Russian revolu- 
tionists upon the accession of the present Czar to 
" smite and send him howling down his father's way " 
may perhaps be passed as, at least, in the tradition of 
the terrible sonnets of 1870 upon " Napoleon III." 
But what is to be said of the jeerings at the Irish 
Nationalists, the clamorous invective dashed against 
Gladstone ? Or those deplorable sonnets in which the 
poet acclaims the sailing of the soldiers against the 
Boer Ptepublics ? The foes of England are chivalrously 
described as " like wolves," " dogs agape with jaws 
afoam," with " foul tongues that blacken God's dis- 
honoured name." The poet cries for vengeance and 
destruction and screeches shrilly for blood. 

The emotion aroused in the reader is that of Japhet 
towards the drunken Noah. These poems are already 
dead. In the future they will be mercifully forgotten. 
To escape from this fog and foulness to a cleaner air 
and the sight again of sunlight and the stars you have 
only to turn back to the former things : 

" Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done ; 
There lies not any troublous thing before, 


Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more ; 
For whom all winds are quiet as the sun, 
All waters as the shore." 

It is welcome to turn from so indecent a spectacle to 
the memories of the earlier time. For here is the out- 
burst of an inspiration's dawn ; before a too passionate 
spring tide and time which changes all good things had 
left nothing but scentless autumn flowers, and of all the 
year's earlier promise " only dead yew leaves and a little 


Newman, of all the pilgrims of Eternity, absorbed in 
a world alien to the common interests of man, stands 
alone in the fascination of his influence upon those 
of entirely incongruous ideals. Amongst all the strange 
problems of his personality, none are more perplexing 
than that of the origins. That " typical Englishmen " 
should have inherited traditions long imbedded in the 
past. The writer of the most perfect and simple Eng- 
lish prose since Bunyan, the child of the English 
Church, with enthusiasm for her ancient ways, the 
voice through which the very spirit of Oxford and the 
old University ideal became articulate, should have 
originated, one would think, in some secluded line of 
ancestry, an historical family of the landed classes, or 
with memories of ancestral services to learning and 
religion. The facts were entirely otherwise. Newman 
was a stranger, an alien, with scarcely a drop of Eng- 
lish blood in his veins. On his father's side he was 
descended from a line of Dutch Jews ; on his mother's, 
from a family of French Huguenots. He appears as 
the son of a clerk in a banking firm, in straitened cir- 



cumstances. His childhood was passed near Richmond. 
He attended a middle-class school at Ealing. His 
sister's name was Jemima. He was reared in the 
typical evangelical piety of the middle classes, which, 
turned stagnant, gave cause later for such merciless 
satire in " Loss and Gain." Two rough deductions 
from history to which Newman seemed an exception, 
are indeed confirmed by the discovery of this ancestry. 
The one is that genius is the child of the mixture 
of races. The other is that the great religious 
leaders and saints of England, from the days of Anselm 
or Hugh of Lincoln, the " humble and heavenly 
stranger," have been for the most part of alien stock. 
The pure Saxon blood does not easily turn to the high 
endeavours of the soul. 

Those who would fully estim ate the life of this extra- 
ordinary man, are confronted with a difficulty at the 
present insuperable. In the first half of the story, the 
material is superabundant ; in the second, almost 
entirely lacking. " The going out of '45 " cut through 
the life history, severing all the strings of friendship 
and tradition. From existence passed in a glare of 
sunshine almost pitiless, revealing every spot and 
wrinkle, Newman suddenly passed into silence and 
grey shadow. For over forty years there remain but a 
few scattered letters : the Manning correspondence, 
occasional notes to Lord Acton and others, and such 
chance reminiscences as have appeared in the biography 
of others. The published books alone for the majority 
revealed that Newman still lived on. These years were 
of tranquillity indeed, and confidence in the haven 
attained after rough voyaging. But there were schemes 
of service always checked and baffled, and the failure of 
many designs whose influences might have been incal- 



culable. The plan for his retranslation of the Catholic 
Bible was sanctioned by Wiseman, then withdrawn in 
obedience to the protest of the booksellers. The daring 
project of a return to Oxford, which might have changed 
the history of the future, was checked and finally 
destroyed by Manning in a piece of ecclesiastical 
intrigue which the friends of Catholicism would fain 
forget. " A painful correspondence " ended in "a 
lifelong estrangement." Seven years were spent in 
a kind of nightmare struggle in Ireland, endeavour- 
ing to create a Catholic University, amid a chaos of 
political intrigue and religious bigotry. The history of 
this he has left in a volume privately printed. The 
true history of that troublous experiment would make a 
record at once entertaining and piteous. He was torn 
between two parties, each demanding the support of his 
great name, each indignant when he refused to throw in 
his lot with them. The Liberals, under Lord Acton, 
held that he had deceived and betrayed them. To the 
last, Lord Acton could never afterwards speak of New- 
man without reproach and bitterness. The opponents 
of Liberalism on the other hand, were never likely to 
forgive the spirit which found expression in the denun- 
ciation of their methods in the letter on the Vatican 
decree. A criticism, says his latest biographer, " which 
includes all his opponents," is " that they failed to 
comprehend an intellect greater than their own, busy 
with problems to the vast horizons of which their view 
could not extend." 

The great works which remain to-day for our estimate 
and judgment are in fact but polemical pamphlets called 
forth by the controversy of a day. But for the madness 
of the Catholic aggression, we would never have had the 
" Present Position of Catholics," one of the great books 



of the nineteenth century : a plea against mob-rule un- 
equalled in its mingling of pathos, irony, and restraint. 
But for the call to impossible work in Ireland, the 
lectures on the " Ideal of a University " would never 
have been given ; and the world would have been poorer 
by the most magnificent of appeals for knowledge as in 
itself an end, for theology as an essential of true learn- 
ing, for education in its true and not its accepted 
meaning. And but for Kingsley's random and reckless 
onslaught the " Apologia " would never have been 
written, and Newman would have gone to his grave 
unvindicated ; the product of six weeks' white-heat 
emotion having produced, as by a kind of miracle, one 
of the most convincing of all records of the pilgrimage of 
the soul. 

Still to-day, however, abides unchallenged the 
supremacy of Newman's English prose. For mingled 
refinement, simplicity, gentleness, this stands unrivalled 
in his time. Specially concerned and entirely congruous 
with the deeper things of existence sin and its con- 
sequences, the mysteries encompassing human life, its 
uncertainty and future, the longing of the soul for God 
it possesses qualities which would have made Newman 
triumphant upon the plane of the controversies of the 
world. His power of irony, indeed, is unsurpassed ; 
triumphant in all its expressions : from the more delicate 
irony of the description of the English gentleman, 
through the broader satire upon the English view of 
" Don Felix Melatesta de Guadaloupe," to the savage 
and awful irony of the lost soul's awakening in the 
" Sermons to Mixed Congregations," at which the 
reader is moved against his will to a kind of metallic 

It is as a mysterious, majestic figure that Newman 


appears in the history of his age : at heart solitary. 
Life for him was " a dialogue not a drama." Turn 
where you will in his writing, you find the same spirit : 
an inner life of ahsorbing interest, a grave wonder at the 
ends and ideals of man, his folly, his aspirations, the 
confusion he has made of his world. The music of that 
voice holds the listener enchanted, as it appeals from 
all transitory things to those which alone are secure and 
abiding ; 

" The world goes on from age to age, but the Holy 
Angels and blessed Saints are always crying alas, alas ! 
and woe, woe ! over the loss of vocations and the dis- 
appointment of hopes, and the scorn of God's love and 
the rain of souls. . . . Times come and go, and men 
will not believe that that is to be which is not yet, or 
that what now is only continues for a season, and is 
not eternity. The end is the trial : the world passes : 
it is but a pageant and a scene : the lofty palace 
crumbles, the busy city is mute, the ships of Tarshish 
have sped away. On heart and flesh death is coming ; 
the veil is breaking. ... 0, my Lord and Saviour, let 
me die as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, 
in Thy Service, and in Thy love." 

The curtain of that quiet life is torn aside for a 
moment at intervals as the years go by. At each 
revelation Newman appears, still expecting, looking 
outwards at the tremendous turmoil of the world with 
pity, sadness, surprise. In his own chosen epitaph, he 
turned "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem." That 
world then and afterwards has been at once attracted 
and baffled : as the world is ever attracted and baffled 
by one who possesses both a secret which it cannot 
penetrate, and an indifference to all it holds dear. 


"Nil nisi Divinum stabile eat, ccetera fumus." 



r I THERE are books and writers which command 
JL a universal attention. The critic immediately 
can assert a supremacy. Here is literature, unchal- 
lenged, secure. The world may be indifferent, the 
comment of the crowd perplexed or doubtful. But the 
decision is confident and final. There are others, for 
which no similar high claim can be advanced, which 
yet may appeal to the individual with a particular 
entreaty. There are weaknesses obvious, flaws, limita- 
tions. The legitimacy of another's criticism must be 
recognised, as the claim is dismissed with scorn or 
aberration, and direct interest is suggested as the cause 
of the extravagant praise. Nevertheless every writer 
who is compelled to pass under review any large 
quantities of prose and poetry must of necessity find 
some which, through temperament or common interest, 
comes with a special appeal. Henceforth this work is 
placed upon a particular shelf of the memory. He can 
listen unmoved to all analysis and depreciation. To 
you these are nothing, or but ruins of great effort : to 
me they have come with something of the force of an 

I can think of certain tiny volumes in all a few 
hundred pages which in the past few years, amongst 



literature still unrecognised, have given me this special 
delight. Here I can describe some of them : a volume 
of gloomy, almost morbid, self-analysis by an author 
terming himself " Mark Rutherford " : a series of little 
impressionist sketches by Mr. Lewis Hind : the " Son- 
nets of the Wingless Hours " : the poems of Mrs. 
Marriott Watson. 

All of these penetrate beneath the outward show of 
things. All present a picture of a world of tragic 
import unheeded in the traffic of men. There is 
the soul's hunger behind the visible pages, a vision of 
longing and baffled purposes. The spirit which unites 
them all is the sense of the greatness and the sadness 
of the life of man, pent up in the kingdoms of Pity 
and of Death. 

My first reading of the "Autobiography" was at 
Cambridge, and my marked copy is the fifth edition, 
dated 1892. I took the book home from the book- 
sellers and read it through at a sitting, and immediately 
hurried out and ordered the " Deliverance," which, 
when it came, received the same treatment. I thought 
then that the two books represented in their intimacy 
and sincerity and simple, refined style something 
unique in modern English literature. For perhaps 
the seventh time I have read this life story again. 
And I would entirely endorse the earlier verdict. If 
this be not literature " of the centre," then all our 
accepted standards of taste must be abandoned, and the 
test of greatness sought in the popular rhetoric and 
the largest circulation in the world. 



Yet " Mark Rutherford " has never entirely come 
into his own. Many who are familiar with that thin 
stream of literature which still trickles through the 
parched and blackened land of present printed matter, 
have failed to recognise the greatness of this life history 
of one of the unimportant. I remember once discussing 
with Professor Henry Sidgwick these and other works. 
He told me that as he was getting older he came more 
and more to limit his novel reading to those books 
which gave him pleasure, and that he could not find 
pleasure in such works as the " Autobiography of Mark 
Rutherford." And indeed the standpoint has to be 
somewhat detached an appreciation of artistic excel- 
lence, of one thing set to do, and supremely well done 
if pleasure is to be obtained from this haunting picture 
of man's futility and his failure. " Mark Rutherford," 
as Bagehot's old lady said of Thackeray, is "an un- 
comfortable writer." The passionless detachment of 
the narrative makes the resultant impression all the 
more challenging and sorrowful. The reader finds 
himself suddenly confronted with pictures which he 
would fain forget, with questionings which he has 
generally managed to put by in the bustle of business 
or pleasure. A modern scientific writer has announced 
a transformation, through the growth of a newer 
knowledge, of the last words of the ancient wisdom. 
" Man, know thyself," has been changed into the 
counsel, " Man, may thou never know what thou art." 
If this verdict is to be accepted as final, the work of 
" Mark Rutherford " may well be placed on some future 
index of proscription of a race determined to life always 
in the summer days. 

This dreary outlook, in his case as in the case of 
another painter of modern life and its failures, 



George Gissing, may be the chief cause of the 
lack of recognition. In the city civilisation of the 
present there is an element of boisterous and lively 
fancy, noisy and cheerful and untroubled by the pale 
cast of thought. Hampstead Heath and Margate 
Sands, the popular election scrimmage, the Daily 
Telegraph, give together that note of exuberance 
which Mr. Boutmy has found most characteristic of 
the English middle class. This note is altogether 
absent from Mark Rutherford's pages. In one of the 
late chapters of the "Deliverance " the author describes 
how one Sunday, on " a lovely summer's morning in 
mid July," he and Ellen and the child Marie took an 
excursion to Hastings. " Our pleasure was exquisite, 
we had a wonderful time." " To be free of the litter 
and filth of a London suburb, of its broken hedges, its 
brickbats, its torn advertisements, its worn and trampled 
grass in fields, half given over to the speculative builder, 
in place of this to tread the immaculate sea-shore, over 
which breathed a wind not charged with soot, to replace 
the dull, shrouding obscurity of the smoke by a distance 
so distinct that the masts of the ships whose hulls were 
buried below the horizon were visible all this was 
perfect bliss." 

" We wanted nothing, we had nothing to achieve." 
Later, on the return home, " all the glory of the 
morning" was forgotten in a huddled, overcrowded 
carriage, with drinking women roaring obscene songs. 
The incident is symbolic of a life history, or, rather, of 
a temperament. His companions on the excursion were 
probably profoundly bored by the sun and the sea, and 
only happy in the intervals of eating, rollicking merri- 
ment, and the joys of the return journey. Lacking this 
rollicking joy through all discomfort, the single isolated 



toiler, trampled under in the modern struggle for exist- 
ence, may be forgiven if he thinks that he has anticipated 
the tortures of the Inferno. And the type of all civilised 
existence is gathered up in one pitiful figure here 
exhibited for a moment in the waste of London. A 
clerk in a gallery, four foot from the ceiling in a gas- 
lighted office, his life consists in addressing envelopes 
ten hours a day. He is bewildered by the perpetual 
foul grossness of his fellow-slaves : and only able to 
endure the awful monotony of his existence by changes 
from steel pens to quills, or variations in the walk to the 
house of his servitude. 

Modern England appears in these pages, modern 
England, indeed, under grey skies, and interpreted by one 
to whom the passing of the dreams of childhood and its 
high hopes for the future has brought none of the 
customary apathy and numbness. In the " Auto- 
biography" the scene is mainly in the provinces. 
The interest is in spiritual combats amongst the 
ultimate questions of existence. Here is an unfor- 
gettable gallery of portraits of the types of the lower 
middle class in provincial cities. These, it must be 
confessed, are in the main unpleasant with narrowness 
and hypocrisy. Sordid love of gain is dominant, with 
an incredibly low standard of culture and of honour. 
They include the students of the theological college, 
the worshippers of Water Lane, Mr. Snale, the " Christian 
tradesman " and bully, and Mrs. Snale, " cruel, not 
with the ferocity of the tiger, but with the dull insensi- 
bility of a cart-wheel," and Mr. Hexton, with " not a 
single chink, however narrow, through which his soul 
looked out of itself upon the great world around." 
They come, they go. Of few are more than a few 
words said. The narrator passes from the college 



through the Baptist chapel at the little provincial 
town to the Unitarian chapel in the country, and so 
to the private school and the Atheistic publishing office. 
But in each chapter appear these clear-cut characters, 
drawn with a confident, firm hand. So that the reader 
is convinced that all these societies still live on. Beyond 
his interests is enduring that strange world of obscure 
and complacent human lives, carried through an exist- 
ence to whose meaning and possibilities of kindliness 
and high endeavour, in its brief passage between 
two "eternities, they seem destined to be for ever 

In the "Deliverance" the scene has passed to 
London. The spiritual struggle has become replaced 
by revolt against the meanness and monotony and 
squalor, the material ills of ugliness and poverty. The 
problems here presented of degenerating life appear 
"round and hard like a ball of adamant," and men 
and women move through time, helpless, disconsolate, 
" with great gaping needs which they longed to satisfy." 
In two or three chapters a gaunt and desolate picture is 
drawn of the modern city, the isolation of its inhabitants 
each from the other, its confusion, its carelessness of 
pain. London on Sunday afternoon in autumn fog, or 
the cold winds of spring ; London in shadow ; the 
actual slums with their outrage on the senses, and 
the gaudy sign of the undertaker as the sole evidence 
of the survival of human aspiration ; the solitary sufferers 
who have been trampled under and flung aside, John, 
the waiter, Cardinal, burdened with his jealous wife, 
Taylor, the coal porter, working always in the dark all 
these in a few pages call up a pageant of maimed and 
broken lives which remain long after the book has closed 
as a troublous vision. 



The picture, indeed, is not entirely grey. The world 
of which " no theory is possible " is seen to contain 
besides " children sickening in cellars " and "the rain 
slowly rotting the harvest," no less obvious " an evening 
in June, the delight of men and women in one another," 
love and human kindness. Something like tranquillity 
is attained before death enters as with a bludgeon, and 
suddenly and clumsily makes an end of all. There 
is acceptance of life's simple pleasures, gratitude for any 
kind of response and affection, a wearing down of the 
harsh fretting of the enigmas into a patience which 
can even cherish a kind of hope. Human life, here 
and now, with the age of belief in a future restitution 
dead, and the age of a satisfying present not yet 
born, appears in the life history of Mark Rutherford not 
unlike his own picture of the Essex marshes. The land 
stretches low and level into the far horizon ; with thick 
yellow clay clinging round the bitter weeds and dis- 
coloured yellow grasses ; and stagnant, scum-covered 
pools mingling with the smell of the earth the rank odour 
of decay. But there is a crimson light in the west 
at evening : the wind that blows at sunset is laden 
with the breath and salt scents of the sea ; and all 
the long night in the high heavens wheel and flash the 
unchanging stars the stars that shone in Eden, and 
will shine again in Paradise. 


The language of the famous "Conclusion" rises 
naturally to the mind as the reader turns over the 
pages of " Life's Lesser Moods." Here, indeed, " not 

241 R 


the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end." 
" With this sense of the splendour of our experience 
and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one 
desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have 
time to make theories about the things we see and 
touch." Walter Pater, afterwards in " Marius," 
showed the practical workings of a life thus startled 
by magnificence and the apprehension of death into a 
" constant and eager observation." Moving detached 
through field and forest, or along the city ways, the 
observer drew from the things seen autumn leaves, 
the sun behind the pine-trees, the face of a child the 
apprehension of " some passionate attitude of those 
about us," and the "tragic dividing of forces on their 
ways." The experience is won from common things, 
in the appeal which the labouring world passes by : a 
sudden revelation of hidden emotion; a colour that 
flares, and in a moment fades ; " a breath, a flame in 
the doorway, a feather in the wind." 

The attitude of Marius eighteen hundred years ago 
is the attitude of Mr. Hind to-day. He, too, is to be 
reckoned among those who looked on, a little perplexed, 
a little diverted, sometimes sorrowful, as they confront 
the noise of passing things. Men are planting and 
building, busy about material things, eager for wealth, 
and crying for fame, for the heaping up of wealth 
which another shall inherit, for a fame which is but 
the ripple of a moment in the midst of an Eternal 
Silence. Conscious even in the grey city of the 
splendour of our experience, with the sense also of 
its awful brevity ever before him, he sees the thing 
pass like a panorama in which the shouting becomes 
shrill and presently dies away, and all the gold and 
glory crumbles to a little dust. Immediately, however, 



is the present experience, directly apprehended. There 
resides an appeal as insistent and compelling in the 
labyrinth of London as in the autumn of dying Rome ; 
the setting sun reflected in the roadside puddle ; a night 
of rain, a night of stars ; high emotion in meeting and 
parting, ten minutes in a railway carriage, the sights 
of a street on a winter morning. The flame of outward 
life, of the unchanging beauty: the flame of inner 
passion : the inscrutable mysteries of each individual 
separate soul, knowing its own bitterness, knowing its 
heart's particular joy ; these make up the world of the 
wanderer, as he roams with hungry heart through Eng- 
land and Spain and Italy, and records impressions of 
life's lesser moods " a breath, a flame in the doorway, 
a feather in the wind." 

The attitude of detachment, a refusal to judge, is 
written on every page. An impression is given, here 
and now, recounted as truthfully as may be. And there 
each is left ; standing isolated in the past, a picture ; 
without any attempt to co-ordinate it to the entire 
scheme of things, glad or sorry ; to estimate, to approve, 
or to condemn. The method is so un-English that it 
is difficult to prophesy its development or popularity. 
We write for edification. We never rest on the expe- 
rience without demanding its fruit or teaching. Each 
particular incident must carry thought from itself to the 
boundaries of things. The record of a child shivering 
in the rain would appear to us intolerably cold without 
an appeal at the end for free breakfasts, or an impeach- 
ment of a society which can allow such things to be. 
The gleam of a golden sunshine must attest the good- 
ness of God. Thunder and the bitter frost must certify 
the presence of evil in the world. To stand aside is to 
acknowledge indifference. To accept all is to enlist 


amongst those who neither for God nor for His enemies, 
are " scorned alike of heaven and hell." 

An actual example will beat illustrate this un-English 
attitude. In one of Mr. Hind's sketches he pictures 
the " Unemployed " marching through the West End 
streets. The dingy red banner, the meagre figures, 
escorted by the stalwart, indifferent policeman, the 
rattle of the collecting-boxes, the clang of many foot- 
steps along the frozen roads, the scornful comment of 
the bystanders are woven into an impression of con- 
tempt and pity with an undernote of fear. 

" Later in the day I met them again. It was twilight 
time ; but the fog had made an end of the day early 
in the afternoon. Over everything hung that murky 
gloom, over the procession of the unemployed, over the 
faces of the employed who left their work to watch. 
The day's tramp was ending; they were going east- 
wards home but the fog was so dense that I could 
see only those who slouched close by. Somewhere far 
in front the head of the procession felt its way through 
the dim streets ; somewhere far behind the tail followed 
obediently ; and out of the thick night came the rattle 
of the coins in the collecting-boxes. A woman near me 
pushed the box contemptuously away. ' Want work, 
do they?' she cried. 'I've been a week trying to 
get a man to mend a window- sash.' ' 

" The barrow with the naphtha lamp passed on. I 
watched the last straggler of the London unemployed 
disappear into the fog." There is no approval. There 
is no condemnation. There is no denunciation of 
society or appeal to Charity Organisation. There is 
no effort to weigh merits or pardon offences. There is 
merely an extraordinarily vivid picture of an actual 
experience, for a moment present, in a moment gone. 



The author, like the ancient magicians, can reveal the 
vision. No more than they can he reveal the inter- 
pretation thereof. 

The danger of the method is sufficiently obvious. 
Life has a tendency to become a mere variegated pat- 
tern, pleasing or discordant ; a Persian carpet ; or a 
succession of sense impressions, in which the picture, 
or any meaning which the picture can convey, is lost 
in the search for agreeable combinations of curves and 
colours. Against this danger is here set the sensitive- 
ness to the emotional background, the conviction that 
even if the impression be but for a moment, that moment 
must represent the illumination of forces of eternal 
significance. Love and Death, the passing of Change 
and of Time, the high ardours of the spirit, the ques- 
tioning ironies of man's existence and helplessness and 
unknown destiny, are written over all these experiences 
of life's lesser moods. 

So that the experience itself is found to unfold large 
issues. A vision is given, if for the moment only and 
without judgment or approval, down the long vistas of 
human life towards far horizons. A " Citizen " presents 
the type of a life vanishing from England. The life of 
effort, unwearying, narrow toil, acceptance of respon- 
sibilities, is set over against " the zest for pleasure that 
marks these days, the refusal to accept responsibilities, 
the petulant protest against irksome tasks." A com- 
panion picture is that of a woman pursuing always 
" The Way," with " the glow of spiritual awakening 
and expansion that came when the particular duties of 
her life were fulfilled, and she could invite the whisper 
of the mysteries." There are visions of the "Time of 
Buttercups," with children dancing in the sunshine ; of 
the death of a child of genius, a cripple, born in a 



humble peasant home ; of the fires of an unforgettable 
sorrow luminous after nineteen years. There is much 
of London, its vastness, its desolation ; of its sombre 
magnificence ; of its callousness and its charity, the 
emanations of its million lives, the problem of its 
present and its incalculable future ; of " her loneli- 
ness," "her littleness," "her magic,'* "her terror," 
" her silence." And at the end the scene shifts into 
the South, Spain and Italy, the little queer incidents of 
travel, the conflict of diverse civilisations ; and the living, 
blinking, blear-eyed, or with thoughts of memory and 
of pity, around the memorials of the dead. 

Everywhere Mr. Hind shows himself particularly 
attracted to the revelation of some inner springs of 
serenity, the secret of a life hidden from the modern 
world. This he apprehends in the Salvation Army 
lasses collecting alms in the Strand, in the old priest 
upon the mountains, the monks as he sees them in his 
garden, the poor who acquiesce and are content. The 
apprehension of the permanent in the transitory, the 
Divine unclouded by the "little smoke " of men's mad 
wants and mean endeavours is the end of the story. 

" I had entered Italy through Genoa," he concludes, 
" her stainless marble palaces soaring proudly into the 
sky. I left her by Venice, her stained marble palaces 
shimmering sadly down into the water. I had seen 
the fireflies all along the Umbrian valley, that candle 
flickering in the dark church of the Frari, and Man- 
tegna's last picture, on which he had inscribed, 
' Nothing but the Divine endures ; the rest is smoke,' " 
The vision was complete. 




" The Sonnets of the Wingless Hours," that tragic 
sequence of bewilderment and pain, have now been 
revealed as born of the intimate experience of life's 
sorrows. The protest and perplexity everywhere pre- 
sent in them drives home under the force of this 
knowledge, with a renewed appeal. Mr. William Sharp, 
in his preface to the Canterbury edition of Mr. Lee 
Hamilton's poems, has taken the world into the secret 
of the laboratory in which were fused these shining 
jewels. The author half-brother to "VernonLee" 
at the beginning seemed to have all life before him in 
most favoured circumstance. In the midst of his work 
as diplomatist he was suddenly seized with that 
dreadful disease from which Heine suffered years of 
martyrdom. "From the first definite collapse in 1874 
all hope was practically abandoned." He lay in a 
semi-paralysed condition through the months and years 
of agony. "For a long period suffering was too acute 
to enable him to be read to ; conversations, messages, 
letters, had to be condensed into a few essential words." 
So passed twenty of the best years of manhood " in the 
posture of the grave," years he compares to the old 
torture of prisons whose walls steadily closed in upon 
their victims, a little nearer every day. Pity itself can 
only stand silent before such a tragedy. 

And from this tragedy were born the " Sonnets of the 
Wingless Hours." Nowhere is there weak complaint ; 
nor any hope for a future which will vindicate the 
purpose of the punishment, and provide adequate com- 
pensation for the ruin of a lifetime. Charon now 
sleeps, asserts the author, in the rushes by the deserted 



shore, and no souls demand the services of the ferry of 
the underworld. Heine, from his mattress-prison, like 
some old heathen defying his tormenters, went down 
into his grave hurling mockery and imprecation at the 
God whose irony had overwhelmed him. But here 
even the consolation of defiance is denied. For the 
gods themselves have vanished into vapour, and the 
walls of Heaven crumbled into dust. Henley deepened 
the poignancy of his hospital rhymes by deliberate 
roughness and jagged edges, telling of sudden agonies ; 
and by the attitude, as of a startled child, towards all 
the apparatus of pain. But in the sonnet which 
demands more than any other medium perfection of 
form, this method is impossible. The very smoothness 
and simplicity of the language of this sequence of 
suffering deepens the sense of sorrow and tears. His 
muse has brought him 

" A branch of dead sea fruit, not bay, 
Plucked by the bitter waters of the soul." 

Sometimes "bitterer is the cup than can be told," and 
the only hope is for the quick coming of " death's 
unstarred and hospitable night." Sometimes a sudden 
passion of regret for a life thus wasted catches him by 
the throat : 

"And now my manhood goes where goes the song 
Of captive birds, the cry of crippled things ; 
It goes where goes the day that unused dies." 

But for the most part there is patience and endurance, 
gratitude for the little golden cup of " Poesy's wine of 
gold," as the sufferer watches the years go one by 
one in 

" A garden where I lie beyond the flowers, 
And where the snails outrace the creeping sun." 



These fruits of the wingless hours, the children of 
endurance and pain, have the intimacy and distinction 
which should give them permanence in literature. 
There are, indeed, flaws; hardly a sonnet is quite 
perfect ; and flaws so obvious that one could mark, as it 
were, with a pencil, the weak line or, in most cases, the 
single word which mars the perfection of the whole. 
But there is a splendour of style and thought charged 
with an emotion sometimes passionate, always sincere, 
which lift these sonnets from the ranks of the ephemeral, 
and justify comparison even with the greatest. 

Two qualities in particular they possess. The first is 
the very sharp-cut impression of beauty of form and 
colour. As all things stand clear in a storm -swept 
atmosphere, so in the heightened sensitiveness of this 
life of suffering Nature has become charged with & 
shining brightness unheeded in the common ways of 
men. The verse throbs with the colour contrasts of 
Italy, Siena with its dizzy belfry stabbing the fiery air ; 
evening in Tuscany ; the rich, hot scent of " old fir 
forests heated by the sun " ; and all the magic of an 
enchanted land. 

Such a sonnet as " Twilight " containing, indeed, 
two obvious weak lines abides in the memory for a 
particular luminous atmosphere, for a moment harmoni- 
ous with a mood in which sorrow itself has become 

" A sudden pang contracts the heart of Day, 
As fades the glory of the sunken sun. 
The bats replace the swallows one by one ; 
The cries of playing children die away. 

Like one in pain, a bell begins to sway ; 
A few white oxen, from their labour done, 
Pass ghostly through the dusk ; the crone that spun 

Beside her door, turns in, and all grows grey. 


And still I lie, as I all day have lain, 

Here in this garden, thinking of the time 
Before the years of helplessness and pain ; 

Or playing with the fringes of a rhyme, 
Until the yellow moon, amid her train 
Of throbbing stars, appears o'er yonder lime." 

The greater poems are those in which these outward 
visions are used to create an imagery conveying thought 
charged with human emotion. The appeal of a personal 
suffering passes into a universal cry. The sadness is 
in the April air when a "breeze from Death's great 
wings Shakes down the blossoms that the fruit trees 
bear." The note of sorrow is heard, which runs through 
all the music of the world. There are poems of most 
delightful, child-like fancy, and a whole series of 
imaginary experience of historical incident. But the 
sonnets which stand out with a strength of emotional 
power are those translating the individual experience 
into the human cry. The eternal subjects of loveliness 
and longing, time hurrying into nothingness the tran- 
sitory generations, the sadness of the memory of all 
vanished joy, the great dreams and desires of a race 
which passes from essaying the walls of Heaven to the 
silence of a little grave these are interpreted each in 
terms of some visual picture. Such are the sonnets 
that already have become famous. In " Sunken Gold" 
long lost hopes are seen lying as on some reefy shelf, 
" the gleam of irrecoverable gold " in the twilight of the 
dim sea forests. All Souls' Day in the wintry evening 
mingles the memory of the multitudes of the forgotten 
dead with the figure of the sower, " grey and lone" in 
the autumn fields. And the sonnets entitled " The 
Wreck of Heaven " unfold a majestic vision of the ruin 



of Paradise and its battlements and towers, with an 
echo of the closing music of the Gdtterddmmerung in 
its mingled exultation and despair. 

" Ay, ay, the gates of pearl are crumbling fast ; 
The walls of beryl topple stone by stone ; 
The throngs of souls in white and gold are gone ; 
The jasper pillars lie where they were cast. 

The roofless halls of gold are dumb and vast ; 

The courts of jacinth are for ever lone ; 

Through shattered chrysolite the blind winds moan, 
And topaz moulders to the earth at last." 

Behind this vision of the destruction of the most 
wonderful dream which has ever comforted the hearts of 
men, there stands the earth and its realities ; and man, 
uncheered by hope of a future glory, but enduring with 
the old brave patience all the accidents of time, flinging 
the grain into the furrow in hope of another harvest. 

All admirers of the "Wingless Hours" must re- 
joice at the wonderful thing which came at last to 
their creator. " After twenty-one years of this pro- 
longed half-life, the miraculous happened. The disease 
commenced to wane. The invalid arose from a bed to a 
new life ; thereafter, recovery to health became 
complete." He travelled; love came to him; the note 
of sadness and patience in his verse gave place to joy 
and a renewed sense of the beauty of the world. In a 
little volume called " Forest Notes," in which he has 
collaborated with his wife, also a distinguished writer, 
he has given the first taste of the product of this new 
life. These little poems lack the sombre magnificence 
of the sonnets, but they possess a delicacy and a charm 
which will be welcome to all oppressed with the un- 
answerable questions which the sonnets inevitably 



raise. That happiness and a great contentment may 
be given to the author of this little book for many 
years must be the hope of all who can appreciate an 
indomitable courage and suffering heroically borne. 
That this contentment may be as fruitful in song as 
the bitter past must be the desire of all lovers of 


Modern poetry is feeling after the expression, in varied 
form, of one of two emotions. The first is the ultimate 
exultation and triumph of being, " the glory of the sum 
of things." The second is the ultimate sadness and 
regret of all that changes, the "idle tears" of "the 
days that are no more." It is to the latter class that 
Mrs. Marriott Watson belongs. Her work demands 
recognition for its simplicity, pathos, and a rare gift of 
sincerity. The influence of Henley is strong. The inevit- 
able word is not indeed so successfully attained. Many of 
these little detached lyrics leave the reader with a sense 
of imperfection owing to some weakness often in the last 
line or stanza. But in many there is a haunting 
melody and beauty. "I am weary of all that passes " 
is the cry of a great modern writer ; and something of 
the pathos of that passing regret over the coming of 
age and the death of the flowers at times poignant, 
more often quiet as the sadness of a summer evening, 
illuminates these little songs of loss and longing. 

"After Sunset," the title of her latest volume, would 
serve as a title to the whole. The light has fallen, and 
there is silence ; only the shadows are creeping over the 
hills and the signs are manifest of the coming night. 
The song of the blackbird again and again recurs : " in 



the dusk of the cold spring dawn," " Singing the Song 
of Songs by the Gates of Dream," or telling the oft-told 
story of " dreams and the dying spring." The verse is 
woven of the material of sorrow : " the poor dead whom 
none rememhereth " : Death's black pavilion in the 
Unshapen Lands, and all the grey flowers in Death's 
garden : the old wind which 

" Goes murmuring still of unremembered seas, 
And cities of the dead that men forget." 

But more than the tragedy of death it is the tragedy 
of change which has here found expression. There 
will be many fairer days, but never again yesterday. 
Flowers will again blossom, but not those flowers 
which have faded. Other generations will rise into 
exultant life, with perhaps the days of summer unending 
and the roses blowing earlier in those after, happier 
years. But the generations of the present are going into 
silence and the generations of the past have gone. 
That time itself should triumph over love and hope and 
endless desire : that childhood should vanish and all its 
absorbing interests ; that youth should be hurried forward 
into age, and no effort stay the march of the intolerable 
hours ; this is the irony of life which makes all human 
experience a thing so helpless and piteous and transitory. 
" Alas, that Spring should vanish with the rose " might 
have been written on the title-page of all her poems. 

"They are mowing the meadows now, and the whispering, 

Song of the scythe breathes sweet on my idle ear, 
Songs of old Summers dead, and of this one dying, 

Roses on roses fallen, and year on year." 

With this also comes the almost blinding contrast 



between the renovating powers of Nature and the 
little life of man. " You are not here, and yet it 
is the Spring." No temporal consolation can satisfy 
the hunger aroused by the mute mocking of such a 

" Youth comes no more for ever even although 
The fields take flower again, and lilacs blow, 
And pointed leaf-buds gather on the vine ; 
Even although the sun should sail and shine 
Bright as of old." 

Here, indeed, is the protest which has rung down all the 
centuries since that distant dawn when Moschus, crying 
for his dead friend, found himself but mocked by the 
mallow and the parsley and the renewal of all the 
splendour of field and flower. 

To the vigorous citizen desirous above all of banishing 
uncomfortable thoughts, this emphasis of the tragedies 
of change will appear morbid and futile. Outside the 
garden life goes roaring by. In the dust and bustle 
there is little time for the hauntings of memory or the 
cultivation of the sorrow of passing things. "With this 
world Mrs. Marriott Watson has little concern. There 
is a strange sense of incongruity in the intrusion of such 
a masterful figure as Lord Kitchener into her poems. In 
her enchanted land the vision is of the ruined altar, the 
deserted home, the white way that winds down the hill, 
the cry of children that are gone out into the night. 

Above all here is the cry of the children. The songs 
of childhood have an especial grace and charm. Some 
have the tenderness of mingled smiles and tears, as in 
the sight of the discarded toys and all the child's for- 
gotten world. Some have the deeper note of longing for 
the childhood vanished in the natural growth to maturity : 



the disappearance of the " small, down-vestured head " : 
"the innocent eyes": "the sweet, impetuous little 
feet." And some have the note of anguish which wails 
round the most unendurable of all the outrages of death, 
in the calling through the night of the ruined heart for 
a little child struck down by those merciless hands 

" Leave the door upon the latch she could never reach it, 
You would hear her crying, crying there till break of day, 
Out on the cold moor 'mid the snows that bleach it, 
Weeping as once in the long years past away." 

Such is the garden "after sunset." The night and its 
shadows have not yet come. The sadness is tempered by 
the charm of the dying day. Tenderness and compassion 
walk more blithely than in the glare of the afternoon. 
And all the magic of the evening gathers round that 
land of longing and tears, which stretches its horizon 
into far distances when once the sun has dropped behind 
the hills. 



11 For the world is not to be won by anything except on those 
conditions with which the Kingdom of Heaven first came. 
Vbhat conquers must have those wJio devote themselves to it: 
who prefer it to all other things : who are proud to suffer for 
it : who can bear anything so that it goes forward." 



AT the beginning of the twentieth century two 
attempts on a large scale have been made to 
estimate the religion of London. The results have in 
the main confirmed the statements of those who assert 
that the condition of these familiar, crowded populations 
is in reality as obscure as that of China or Mexico. The 
one was statistical, the other impressionist. Facts 
limited to bare numbers were given by the Daily News 
census. A vast complexity of conversations, testimonies, 
experiences was provided by Mr. Booth's seven volumes. 
It is to the student of opinion and social change that 
the first of these the numbering of the religions of 
London will prove of lasting value. Only advertise- 
ment, cynicism, or vulgar curiosity benefits from the 
announcement that Mr. A's church (heralding itself as 
exercising enormous spiritual influence) gathers four 
hundred worshippers every Sunday, or that Mr. B's 
church (proclaiming a similar success) gathers forty. 
The tabulated results of the Census have been used as 
the basis for crude and ill-informed deductions. They 
will form the material in the future for the demonstra- 
tion of all manner of preconceived ideas. But this 
is the common fate of statistic. Let the figures be 
taken for what they profess to be the record of the 
numbers of attendance, men, women, and children, at 
morning and evening service on certain Sundays in the 
years 1902-3 in every public religious edifice in London. 
No claim is made that these figures give adequate basis 



for comparison of the spiritual influence of different 
individual churches or of the aggregate of organised 
religions. One church, in a poor district, attracts a 
congregation by a distribution of cocoa and slabs of 
bread at the commencement or the conclusion of the 
service. Another, in a comfortable suburb, fills its pews 
with an audience to whom church-going is the custom 
and the fashion, a display of smart clothing, the occupa- 
tion of a seat hired by the year, or a method of killing 
the boredom of an idle Sunday. A third, hidden in a 
back street, gathers together thirty or forty poor men and 
women who support the expenses with their scanty 
earnings, and meet for edification or for worship outside 
the sphere of both fashion and material benefit. There 
is no common denominator of religious aspiration which 
will measure three such congregations as these ; but in 
dispassionate estimate of figures they are of necessity 
weighed together as if each individual attendance were 
of similar account. 

Yet the figures themselves are of quite extraordinary 
interest and value an interest and value which will 
increase as the memories of London in 1908 fade into an 
almost fabulous past. They have stamped in permanent 
form certain facts of the spiritual energies of this strange 
and perplexing city in this particular period of change. 
Corrected by personal knowledge, and retranslated from 
their bloodless skeleton of information into terms of 
human effort, tenacity, and aspiration, they become 
charged with a romance and significance paralleled by 
few other such tables of numbers and names. 

Mr. Charles Booth's investigation has not been 
received with so universal an acceptance. Comments, 
often angry, have been evoked by the somewhat sweeping 
strictures of his investigators. The personal impression 



of curate or minister seems often to have formed the 
main basis of judgment. Pretentiousness, noisiness, 
vulgarity, produce emphatic condemnation ; the critics 
would have done well to remember that pretentiousness, 
noisiness and vulgarity have often been associated with 
a real and vigorous religion. Mr. Booth deliberately (I 
am inclined to think, rightly) rejected the statistical 
method as misleading in the estimation of something so 
elusive and intangible as spiritual influence. But as a 
corrective to many of his statements the Census figures 
are quite invaluable. No serious student can neglect 
either the one or the other. Read first the seven 
volumes of Mr. Booth ; examine and analyse the figures 
of this Census ; make yourself personally familiar with at 
least a few selected districts of different types the 
wealthy, the suburban, the artisan, the poor : you will 
then be in a position to offer at least some tentative 
suggestions towards an estimate of the religious condition 
of this great congeries of cities which we term London. 

In the commencement of examination it is desirable 
to attempt an estimate of the characteristic classes of 
the people of the city. We may omit the specialised 
class of the West End : that particular " golden " area 
in which is condensed the product of all the spoil of 
Empire. Religion has never been the serious concern of 
the wealthy. They play with it as they play with life. 
They contribute the funds of impersonal charities, they 
discuss the sufferings of the poor, they patronise all creeds 
offering a new sensation Christian Science, ^Esthetic 
Catholicism, Spiritualism, Revivalism. It is sincere in so 
far as any sincerity in such a life is possible. But it in 



no way essentially differs from the homage which this 
class is always prepared to pay to the accepted gods of a 
nation. The real problem of the future of religion in 
the city is being fought out amongst those classes 
which make up the grey matrix of labour of which that 
city is composed. 

For purposes of investigation this solid background of 
the city's energies can be split into four main divisions. 
First we may note the " poor " in the proper sense of 
the term ; those, in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's 
now famous phrase, living "on the verge of hunger" if 
not "on the verge of starvation." These are the 
subjects of Messrs. Booth and Rowntree's dismal 
statistics. They are a class which only emerges above 
the political horizon when some energetic statesman is 
composing a moving peroration or essaying a new 
policy. They are the forlorn multitude of those who 
have failed. They are most numerous in South and 
East London, forming great wedges and masses along 
the riverside, and collecting in scattered pools or isolated 
streets in all the other boroughs. They form the ready 
prey of church and mission. Each particular district in 
which they herd is swarming with rival agencies essaying 
their bodily sustenance and the salvation of their souls. 
A continuous vast river of charitable help pours through 
the channels of these missions into every corner and 
crevice of their homes. Bread, clothing, boots, vegetable 
soup, grocery tickets, monetary assistance, fall some- 
times, like the rain of heaven, upon the just and unjust, 
sometimes only upon those who are willing to make a 
decent return in attendance at public worship or mothers' 
meetings. This source of supply is eked out in most 
cases with casual labour or the more desolating forms of 
unskilled employment, with outdoor relief, with the pro- 



ducts of home industries, the earnings of school children, 
and the munificent wage earned by the free unorganised 
labour of women. The children are innumerable. The 
death rate of infants is high, but a sufficient number sur- 
vive to ensure the transmission of the rickety type, 
stunted physique and fragile or diseased constitution, to 
the generations of the future. The individuals rise or 
fall. The class remains, a stagnant pool of low-grade 
life which is slowly extending its borders, and swelling 
its multitudes to a bulk which finally will compel atten- 
tion to the menace of its futility. 

The second class makes up the matrix of which the 
great mass of working London is composed. It is the 
class of decent working men, from the highly paid artisan 
to the better paid labourer. Here is the "poor" as it 
appears to the rich, lumping into one common category 
all below the status of retail tradesmen. It more than 
fills the block dwellings and cottages in which it is 
housed, and it is continually flowing over through leaks and 
gaps into the suburbs which surround it on all sides, to 
the infinite disgust of the original inhabitants of these 
desirable regions. It works for the most part away from 
its residence, and spends much of its leisure in journeys 
to and fro. It is on the whole contented with its life. 
But its intel igence and vitality seem partially sapped by 
its crowded city existence, and it manifests none of the 
somewhat aggressive social and political vigour which is 
characteristic of a similar class in other cities of England. 
At present it is largely country bred. It still shows 
traces of the open air and the life of the fields. But 
each year the rural elements diminish, the urban 
increase. It is a race passing in bulk through the 
greatest change in the life of humanity, the change in 
which nature vanishes from the horizon and is replaced 



by the perpetual presence of man. It represents at the 
present a stage in this transition, with stability, acquies- 
cence, and the peculiar city characteristics not yet fully 

The third class is one often overlooked, whose neglect 
has originated some of the more absurd generalisations 
upon the life of the poor. In all the boroughs, poor as 
well as rich, lining all the main roads and many of the 
side streets is the class of tradesmen who minister to the 
needs of the vast populations which are hidden behind. 
These form a prosperous bourgeois class, possessing con- 
siderable vigour and enterprise, and very sharply divided 
in interest and outlook from the poor and the artisan 
who do business with them. In the poorest boroughs 
they form an aristocracy of wealth. In the wealthier 
boroughs they are less conspicuous, aud there are social 
grades from which they are excluded. But they are 
numerous in all, and in all offer a very marked contribu- 
tion to the religious life of London. 

Lastly, in the outlying districts we find the suburban 
dweller, forming, on the hills principally of the South 
and the North, a class of quite peculiar and specialised 
life and characteristics. He is a product of those 
economic conditions which have made London the 
banking centre and clearing-house of the world. He is 
a dependant of the City, to which he journeys every 
morning. He leads an entirely sedentary existence, 
writing other men's letters, adding other men's accounts, 
each a cog or link in the machinery of other men's ideas- 
The energy pent up in this remarkable toil is reserved 
for the hours of freedom. There is active home life, 
strong family affection, little gardens and ornamented 
villas, ambition for the children. A certain artificiality 
distinguishes such an existence, a divorce from reality 



which only intrudes at intervals of love or suffering or 
death. Vigour may be more conspicuous than breadth 
of outlook or intellectual agility, and there are often set 
up quite astonishing standards of "respectability" in 
politics and religion. But there are compensating ele- 
ments in a widespread material comfort, enjoyment of 
simple pleasures, and a very real and active religious life, 
probably stronger here than in any other class of the 
community. It is here that the churches and chapels 
are crowded, that their activities blossom out on week- 
days into mutual improvement associations, debating 
clubs, and innocuous amusement. The orthodox religions 
receive a willing adherence which has resisted success- 
fully all the disintegrating forces of changes in thought 
and environment. This is the class beyond all others 
where the particular characteristics find expression in the 
edifices it has reared for its worship and the nature of 
the services it generously maintains within them. 

Let us see what light the Religious Census will 
throw upon the spiritual condition of this world of 
working humanity. Although it would be quite inac- 
curate to judge the influences exercised from particular 
churches by the simple comparison of the numbers of 
worshippers ; and although, undoubtedly, a religious 
enthusiasm focussed in the Sunday gatherings diffuses 
through great numbers who never or rarely are actually 
present ; yet on the whole we may say that the 
organised religious and ethical bodies stand practically 
for the active spiritual enterprise of London. Once I 
had expected it otherwise thinking that the widespread 
break-up of faith and the influence of destructive 
criticism would have created a large class of persons 
unable conscientiously to attach themselves to church 
or chapel, but eager for ethical progress and the asser- 



tion of the supremacy of the things of the spirit. But 
experience has failed to discover any number of such 
individuals. Many, indeed, pass through a stage in 
which all definite religions are judged and condemned 
as insincere or untrue. But either interest in all 
ultimate questions vanishes, or the inquirer in time 
finds himself drawn to some church or congregation. 
Even those who are unable to make any positive 
spiritual affirmation may unite in some positivist 
society or ethical fellowship. The influence of such 
bodies, indeed, containing some of the most sincere and 
devoted of men and women, is altogether underestimated 
by the meagre numbers of attendance. Outside there 
is much vague social discontent, and often a feeling of 
bitterness against all organised religions. But such 
feelings, however praiseworthy, are not in themselves 
guarantees of spiritual or moral energy. The man who 
will abstain from church-going, and informs you with 
complacency that his religion is that of the Sermon on 
the Mount, is usually distinguished by little but an 
amiable unwillingness to do conscious injury to those 
who have not injured him, and by a determination at 
least not to love himself less than his neighbour. As 
symbols and representatives of whatever spiritual life 
still remains in London, we may quite confidently limit 
our outlook to the religious bodies who are dealt with in 
the Census return. 

To come then to the facts. Let us first consider the 
bare aggregate of numbers. 

In the County area of London one man out of every 
twelve, and one woman out of every ten, attends some 
form of Divine worship each Sunday morning ; and one 
man in every ten, and one woman in every seven, attends 
each Sunday evening. 



And if we may accept the figures given by the super- 
intendent of the Census of 38 per cent, making a double 
attendance, we can lead on to the further statement : 

In London one man out of every six, and one woman 
out of every Jive, attends some place of worship at least 
once every Sunday. 

I must confess that this is a far larger proportion 
than I should have anticipated. Living amongst a 
population which has practically abandoned church- 
going, I had mechanically interpreted my own experi- 
ence into the larger whole. The twelfth man who goes 
off to church at eleven o'clock on Sunday morning had 
escaped my vision. As a rough estimate I should have 
given anything from 1 to 4 per cent, as the total 
actively Christian population of labouring London. 
One is grateful to the Census if for this alone the 
revelation of larger numbers of attendance than one 
had dared to hope however much later examination 
may show such attendance to be meaningless and 

Let us pass from these massed aggregates which 
mean little to the more interesting and difficult analysis 
of classes to the attempt to estimate how these wor- 
shippers are divided amongst the main grades of society. 
Here is the ready field of wild deduction. Many critics 
knowing dimly that Southwark (say) is poor and 
Chelsea wealthy, have concluded that the statistics of 
the borough of Southwark show the statistics of church 
attendance of the poor, and those of the borough of 
Chelsea that of the rich. Some have thus discovered 
a fixed proportion of church-goers in all classes. 
Others will tell you confidently of the demonstration 
by such numbers of the strength of some particular 
denomination amongst the poor or the rich. Such 



crude deductions are entirely erroneous. On the one 
hand, a poor borough may contain places of worship 
which attract well-to-do worshippers from a wide area. 
Southwark, for example, contains an Anglican and a 
Roman Catholic cathedral, as well as the great chapel 
made famous through the English-speaking world by 
the pastorate of Charles Spurgeon, whose enormous 
audience of 8,625 represents a similar cathedral 
gathering. In the poorest district of Lambeth, again, 
is the great church presided over by Mr. F. B. Meyer, 
which draws a well-to-do and intelligent audience from 
all the southern suburbs. And on the other hand, such 
a statement altogether neglects the comfortable class of 
tradesmen and the middle class who live in all the 
poorer boroughs, and provide perhaps the most ardent 
adherents of many flourishing religions. Any one inti- 
mate with such a district will know that it is this class 
in the main which contributes such worshippers as the 
churches and chapels are able to gather together in 
working-class districts. The places of worship line the 
main thoroughfares. Their frequenters are respectable, 
well-dressed men and women, the dwellers in those 
main thoroughfares and the better-class squares and 
streets that remain undestroyed. Investigate every 
place of worship down (say) Walworth Road from the 
" Elephant " to Camberwell Green the heart of a poor 
district. In all the varied centres of religion, whose 
buildings are thickly studded at close intervals, you will 
find no signs of obvious poverty. In the districts 
behind, in some obscure gathering of Primitive Metho- 
dists or Bible Christians, you may discover the class 
you are seeking. But in all central South London, 
the district with which I am most intimate, I have 
only seen the poor in bulk collected at two places of 


religious worship Mr. Meakin's great hall in Ber- 
mondsey, and St. George's Roman Catholic Cathedral 
at Southwark an object-lesson in (amongst other 
things) the wisdom of the permission of the late Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury for the use of incense " for fumi- 
gatory purposes." In London as a whole apart from 
certain isolated and exceptional instances I have no 
hesitation in asserting that it is the middle classes 
which attend church and chapel, the working-classes 
and the poor who stay away. 

This can be illustrated by comparison, not of the 
large areas of the boroughs, but of some definite 
working-class area with some suburban district. I 
have been at some pains to make such a comparison, 
whose figures are appended. The working-class area 
I have chosen is a triangular patch in the centre of 
South London, bounded by three great thoroughfares. 
It is a normal crowded district with which I am per- 
sonally familiar, varying from the lowest poverty to the 
comparative comfort of skilled industry, and bounded by 
the middle-class shopkeepers in the main roads. If 
anything, it should be unusually favoured in its religious 
effort, for it is the scene of some very interesting experi- 
ments. Several of the public-school and Cambridge 
College missions are here, and the well-known Browning 
Hall settlement. The churches are high, low, and 
broad. The clergy are Tory, Radical, and Socialist; 
they include amongst them borough councillors, guar- 
dians, and two of the best known Radical parsons of 
London. All types of Nonconformity are represented, 
including a flourishing Baptist and a flourishing 
Wesley an Chapel. 

To compare with this I selected a suburban district 
in South Dulwich and Forest Hill, which is as yet 



comparatively free from the inroad of the working 

The figures for the two districts compare as follows : 






age of 

Working-class District . 
Suburban District . 






The figures become more striking, perhaps, if areas 
of equal population are compared. The single parish 
of St. Mary Magdalene, Old Kent Road, contains almost 
as large a population as five of the suburban parishes. 
But the church attendances are different. 






age of 

St. Mary's, Walworth . 






Five Dulwioh and 

Sydenham Parishes 






When it is further remembered that the suburban 
district undoubtedly also supplies worshippers to a 
number of churches and chapels outside its borders, 
and that by scraping off a layer of middle-class houses 
from the main streets of Walworth you would probably 
diminish your church attendance by at least two-thirds' 
I think the illustration is striking of the difference in 



habits of church attendance between the prosperous and 
the poor. 

An isolated example such as this is indeed not con- 
clusive. But I would ask any critic still doubtful to 
work out similar calculations from the Census returns. 
Let him compare Bermondsey with Lewisham, inner 
with outer Lambeth, Deptford with Blackheath he 
will find similar results. The results were, indeed, well 
known to those familiar with the life of the poor, and 
are continually asserted in Mr. Booth's investigation. 
The new city race of workers is developing apart 
from the influences of religion. The spiritual world 
has vanished from their vision. The curtain of 
their horizon has descended round the life of toil 
which constitutes their immediate universe. Here and 
there, widely scattered, you may find a successful 
religious community of the poor; but these are mere 
isolated instances in an area of grey indifference. 
The energy, determination, and devotion put forth by 
adherents of all the religious bodies to convert some 
portion of this vast multitude, is one of the most notice- 
able displays of self-sacrificing effort to be found in 
modern England. Every expedient is essayed, from 
the guilds and fraternities, processions and banners of 
" advanced " churches to the antics of " Jumping Jack" 
or " Salvation Joe " of a different school of Christianity. 
The wealthier members of the varied religions generously 
pour subscriptions and material gifts for the same 
arduous task. The best of the younger members of 
the Church of England undertake work amongst the 
poor, and certainly the standard of the clergy in the 
central districts where the churches are empty need 
not fear comparison with the standard in the outlying 
suburbs where the churches are crammed. If the 



works done in London to-day, one is inclined to assert, 
had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would 
have repented in sackcloth and ashes. To all this 
the great unknown multitude remains unresponsive. 
So far as a conscious spiritual life is concerned the 
results seem almost negligible. The key to the heart 
of the City has not yet been found. Its interminable 
streets and desert of crowded dwellings wait for some 
outpouring of the spirit as yet withholden. Against its 
amiable acquiescence and passive resistance to the 
exhortations, threatenings, and promises of the 
churches all these energies beat themselves in vain. 
The indifference to religion is, indeed, accompanied by 
indifference to all intellectual effort, to political and 
social action, to the advancement of any ideal cause. 
" It was supposed," is one verdict, " that as men would 
not come to church they would go to the hall of science. 
Not a bit of it. Of the two they would prefer the 
church, but what they really want is to be left alone." 
" The fact is," said a lady to a friend of mine who was 
canvassing for a vote, " me and my 'usben' don't take 
no interest in any think." 

Amongst the third class of residents the middle 
classes, stretching in a kind of skeleton framework 
through the cities of labour, so strangely members of 
this unique community, yet alien from all its hopes 
and desires we can recognise a strong and vigorous 
religious life. It develops mainly an individualistic 
gospel ; stern ; a doctrine that every man should help 
himself, and that if he fails it is his own fault. It 
recognises an "old-fashioned" teaching heaven and 
hell as realities, unaffected by the destructive influences 
of modern ideas. Here, if anywhere, is the survival in 
London of the Puritan element, the distrust of worldly 



pleasures, the looking forward to the salvation of the 
elect, escaping, though hardly, from a world destined 
for everlasting fire. This population fills the great 
Nonconformist tabernacles which occupy so conspicuous 
a position in the religious life of London. It is 
interesting to see how its existence causes a reversal 
of the standards recognised elsewhere clergymen, for 
example, repeatedly explaining to Mr. Booth that their 
wealthy people were "too well off" for the Church of 
England, or that the edifice is "placed in a wealthier 
part among people who are Dissenters or nothing." 
" These churches," is the verdict on one district and 
one religious body it may be extended to all "are 
mainly supported by the lower middle class ; with the 
working class their difficulties begin, and in the streets 
that show a really poor element all religious efforts fail, 
here as elsewhere." The summary of a particularly 
successful Baptist tabernacle in Camberwell is written 
large over the whole of London. " Few are rich, for 
the rich have left the neighbourhood ; none are poor, 
for the poor do not come, and a mission started for their 
sake has not been a success. But as a middle-class 
organisation the church is the centre of a vigorous 
congregational life." In these districts at least, Non- 
conformists form the aristocracy, and the Church and 
the Roman Catholics work with a lower social stratum. 
In our fourth class the residents of the suburbs we 
have perhaps the largest proportion of church atten- 
dance in any district in London. Practically the whole 
population attends religious service on Sunday. Places 
of all religions are crowded with overflowing congrega- 
tions. The disintegrating influences which have swept 
over Society and the West have here as yet scarcely 
penetrated. Sunday amusement is still sternly dis- 

273 T 


couraged. Sunday is made as unpleasant a day as is 
possible for the ungodly who refuse to recognise the 
obligations of worship. The record everywhere is of 
activity and enterprise. Munificent sums have been 
spent on new buildings and endowments. Church 
attendance is the fashion, pews are rented for families ; 
the chief difficulty is to provide accommodation for the 
increasing demands. Adjacent to each other, indeed, 
we have here two populations, each inhabiting an 
entirely separate universe. In the centre the minister 
may talk with the tongue of man and angel, and the 
church remains deserted. In the suburbs he may roll 
out commonplace platitudes, and the church is crammed. 
"A certain class will come to church," is the summary 
of one minister, " provided you do not positively repel 
them ; while another class cannot be induced to come 
at all." In the suburbs we hear of districts in which 
" almost every one in this neighbourhood goes to some 
place of worship"; others where "you have only to 
build a church and it will be filled, unless you drive the 
people away." 

The conclusions of Mr. Booth and the statistical 
Census now further sift themselves under classes. 

In London the poor (except the Roman Catholic poor) 
do not attend service on Sunday, though there are a few 
churches and missions which gather some, and forlorn 
groups can be collected by a liberal grunting of relief. 

The working man does not come to church. A few 
small communities of Primitive Methodists, Baptists, 
Salvationists, and similar bodies, as a general rule 
represent his contribution to the religious life of the 

The tradesmen and middle class of the poorer 
boroughs exhibit an active religious life, mainly gathered 


in the larger Nonconformist bodies, especially the 

The residents in the suburbs crowd their churches and 
chapels, and support with impartiality and liberality 
all forms of organised religion. 

Before passing to conclusions, there are some further 
points of interest to be noted concerning the region of 
religious effort and failure. 

First, I think the statistics conclusively demonstrate 
the failure of what I may call the " mission " system. 
The original conception was an idea of a very attrac- 
tive simplicity. The parish church or the mother 
chapel was to he the place of meeting of a cultured and 
comfortable audience. These paid for the seats, and 
were edified by the ministrations of a cultured and 
comfortable pastor. " The poor will not come to 
church." The presence of their squalor, if they found 
their way in, would, indeed, be a little embarrassing. 
So in the poor part of the parish a " mission-hall " is 
built, where the curate or the faithful laymen of the 
church may extemporise popular and breezy addresses, 
and conduct with the aid of an harmonium popular and 
breezy hymns. The mother congregation will contri- 
bute generously to this necessary supplement to their 
efforts, the lady members will assist in the singing or 
become district visitors, and the hall will be a centre 
for the liberal distribution of meat, clothing, and 
coals. One may perhaps rejoice at the failure of this 
vicious system, as revealed by these investigations. 
Mr. Booth brings a sweeping indictment against 
the whole collection of shabby, dilapidated mission- 
halls of tin or drab brick, which he found offered 
as homes for the spiritual nourishment of the poor. 
And in practically every borough the attendance 



of adults at these lamentable erections is found to be 
approaching the vanishing point. Rarely does it reach 
a hundred. 43, 34, 16 in the Anglican, 8 in the 
Baptist, 41, 41 in the Congregational, I find the 
mission-hall attendance in one district. In another are 
ten Baptist missions with an average morning adult 
attendance of 7, and evening of 33 ; in another five 
Anglican with a morning average of 13, and evening of 
50. Not on such lines, it may safely be asserted, will 
the news of the kingdom of God come to the working 
populations of London. 

A second noteworthy feature is the power seemingly 
possessed by the old parish churches to gather congre- 
gations within their walls. They stand, for the most 
part, of a Georgian or early Victorian architecture, like 
great ships washed by the flood of humanity which has 
swept around them ; built for a time when Walworth 
was a fashionable suburb, or Stepney surrounded by 
gardens, or Woolwich a flourishing, self-centred country 
town. They awaken memories of a vanished past, 
before the torrent of poverty swept down on the fields 
and marshes and destroyed, like the lava stream, 
all green trees and every living thing. Something, 
however, of their quaintness and old-world atmosphere 
seems to have clung around them. The services them- 
selves are nearly all of a " moderate " type, most 
characteristic of an Established Church and early 
Victorian religion. Most of these parish churches, 
with their type of worship now almost superseded by 
modern, energetic innovations, exhibit a noteworthy 
number of Sunday attendances. 

A third item is the manifest tendency of the Noncon- 
formist worshippers to collect together into strong 
centres that centralising system which is inevitable 


where preaching is so emphasised and the stimulus and 
guidance of the pulpit so much desired. I have no 
douht the tendency implies loss as well as gain that 
the smaller chapels round, which are emptied to swell 
the great congregations, must inevitably suffer from 
depression and a sense of failure. In Woolwich, for 
example, we may note Mr. Wilson's great tabernacle, 
with an adult attendance of 1,669 ; and ten other 
Baptist chapels dividing 1,520 between them, or an 
average at each service of 76 persons. In Southwark 
Mr. Spurgeon attracts a magnificent congregation of 
1,054 adults in the morning and 1,954 in the evening; 
the seven adjacent Baptist chapels obtain between them 
873 in the morning and 1,769 in the evening, an 
average of 188 per service; while the adjacent four 
Congregational churches are occupied by but 628, or an 
average of 78. Mr. Meakin's hall in Bermondsey, 
again, with its 1,217 evening attendance, presents a 
sharp contrast to adjacent Wesleyan churches with 
congregations of 12, 130, and 19, and to the desolate 
condition of churches and chapels of other bodies in the 
same desolate region. Undoubtedly there are high 
compensating advantages. The power of the great 
preacher is multiplied. The stimulus of these vast 
multitudes is invaluable to the bodies of Christians 
scattered and small in the surrounding indifference. 
The sight of the congregation of the Newington Taber- 
nacle singing hymns on Sunday evening on the steps of 
the great edifice is a guarantee to the heedless stream 
which passes by that there are some who still believe in 
their religion. But \vork under the shadow of these 
cathedral gatherings in the humbler chapels is a de- 
pressing experience. The congregation slowly melts 
away, as the old faithful depart and the younger mem- 



bers are drawn to more obvious attractions. I know of 
few more depressing sights than the gathering of the 
few score dejected faithful scattered through buildings 
of size and pretension from which all the life has 

The parochial system of the Established Church, with 
its strong emphasis on local ties, is a resistent against 
this tendency in the Anglican community; the com- 
paratively unimportant place occupied by the preacher 
is another. Undoubtedly, however, the Anglican atten- 
dances suffer as well as the Nonconformist from the 
attractive influences of these gigantic tabernacles and 
mission-halls. One is driven more and more to the 
conclusion that under present conditions the percentage 
of attendance at church to population in London ia 
about a fixed number. You may, by special effort of 
preaching, music, or excitement, draw a large and 
active congregation. But you have done so by empty- 
ing the churches of your neighbours. The water is not 
increased in quantity, but merely decanted from bottle 
to bottle. In the cases mentioned above, the great 
chapels with their allied branches and their immense 
activity, I can very gladly testify from personal know- 
ledge to the real spiritual enthusiasm and benefit 
which they diffuse. There are, however, other popular 
attractive services which must be received with less 
unqualified praise. Efforts are made, wholesale, 
reckless, sensational,- to excite an emotional vigour. 
The influence in any case appears transitory. The 
adherents of the churches are lured from their less 
exciting services, dosed with a kind of spiritual intoxi- 
cation, and left to recover from the debauch as best 
they can. Energetic, well-meaning persons, seeing 
London as a heathen city, hire large halls, flash 



lantern slides before the eyes of the crowd, advertise 
" Salvation Jack " to preach on the subject " Catch 'em 
alive." The success is phenomenal, and they go to 
sleep at nights convinced that they have advanced by 
their efforts the conversion of England. People who 
had attended humble churches and chapels, often miles 
away, are drawn to this new spiritual excitement. In 
many cases they never return to their old membership, 
finding the old methods humdrum and unstimulating. 
I am sure I am in agreement with the majority of the 
ministers in London when I say that experience has 
created a distrust of the large "undenominational" 
mission, with its lavish charities and sensational appeals, 
the special advertisement and religious excitement, and 
all efforts to reach " the outcast who has never heard of 
the Gospel" (who scarcely exists in London) by the 
satisfaction of his stomach or the adaptation of the 
methods of the circus and the music-hall. 

Another feature of interest is the evidence of the 
progress of Ritualism and " advanced" doctrine amongst 
the suburbs of London. This was a surprise to me. I 
had thought these energies mainly exhibited amongst the 
rich who were attracted by its ceremonial and the poor 
who welcomed its gospel of Socialism and fellowship. 
But here are strong churches among the middle classes 
churches mostly built in recent years, and by the 
worshippers themselves without external assistance 
evidently providing something which their congregations 
desire. Here, if anywhere, is to be found the Eitualistic 
grocer whom Sir William Harcourt once challenged his 
ecclesiastical opponents to produce. The suburbs, I 
should have thought, would have remained the last 
home of Protestantism, and around the northern boun- 
daries of London they remain entirely faithful to the 



evangelical tradition. But all through the south and 
the west we find largely attended " Catholic " churches. 
All new districts of mixed population seem to be 
efficient fields for these newer energies. It is a note- 
worthy factor in the estimation of the changing aspects 
of London's religious life, a movement still progressing 
towards an end no one can clearly foresee. 

Many other striking features are revealed as by a 
sudden light thrown into a universe of cloud and dark- 
ness. There is the smallness of number and magnitude 
of congregation of the Roman Catholic churches, reveal- 
ing both the poverty of this body and the readiness of 
its members to travel considerable distances to fulfil 
their obligations of attendance at Mass. There is the 
astonishing blossoming out of offshoots and branches of 
the main stream of Christian life into all kinds of quaint 
minor sects, each with its own specific doctrine and 
place of meeting. These become most pronounced in 
the suburbs, as in Camberwell, where we find the New 
Jerusalem Church with 45 morning worshippers, the 
Calvinistic Independents with 153, the Christadelphians 
with 49, besides such less conspicuous bodies as the 
Holiness Gospel Mission with 15, the Christian Band 
Hall with 70, and two branches of Spiritualists with 13 
and 39 adherents. Again, there is evidence of the com- 
parative failure of " undenominational " services, with a 
series of minute attendances ; the inability of the Salva- 
tion Army to attract inside audiences ; and the great 
contrast, in the case of the Wesleyan Methodists, 
between attendances at the new centres of the forward 
movement and the old circuit chapels. 

Finally, it may be asked, What is the relation 
between the figures of attendance and actual religious 
influence? How far can the activity of a Church in 



districts be measured by or limited to the number of 
adherents here given ? This is a question largely a 
matter of personal impression for which there are no 
exact data. My own opinion is that, in translation into 
the world of real values, the numbers for the central 
districts are considerably too small, those for the 
suburban considerably too large. This is due, on the 
one hand, to the far wider diffusive influence of the 
Church in the poorer districts than that which is repre- 
sented by the handful of worshippers ; on the other, to 
what I might call the greater religious intensity of the 
worshippers who do attend where church-going is out of 
fashion than of those who attend where it is the recog- 
nised custom. The Church in the vast city is a great 
engine of civilisation. There is a network and 
machinery of social organisation clubs, guilds, boys' 
brigades, mothers' meetings, improvement societies. 
It may indeed be questioned how far a Church is 
justified in turning its energies from its definite spiritual 
mission to the more practical work of the provision of 
pleasure and the amelioration of the hard life of the 
poor. But certainly it is undoubted that civilisation 
would be considerably delayed were this apparatus 
removed. This activity has earned for the Church the 
friendliness and toleration of vast populations still 
impervious to its spiritual message, and a few years ago 
in an attitude of open hostility. An overwhelming 
proportion of the children attend catechism and Sunday 
School and are launched into life with such cloudy 
religious conceptions as these institutes are able to 
provide. The clergy are frequent and often welcome 
visitors. Each individual is present at service at least 
at his baptism, his marriage, and his funeral ; and 
occasionally on other special occasions harvest festi- 



vals, confirmations, and the last night of the year. 
The services of the minister of religion are requisitioned 
in times of trouble or illness, and few would willingly 
die without at least one visit from the clergyman. All 
this means a real if diffusive influence. Keligious ideas 
are still " in the air " ; and the message of the Church, 
the consciousness of sin, the need for repentance, and 
the expectation of future judgment, have not yet 
entirely vanished from the horizon of London. 

I should he inclined to assert again that, in quality, 
our attendance within the congested area more than 
compensates for the quantity of the region beyond. 
We come, if at all, because our religion is real, and 
amid the manifested contempt of our neighbours. In 
the smaller churches and chapels at least there are no 
meretricious attractions to lead us thus to defy public 
opinion. Suburban religion is largely of a different 
character. Much of it is the mere conventional homage 
to the accepted gods of the community. And even the 
section that is honest and deliberate is often partly 
lacking in certain essentials of an active and aggressive 
Christian endeavour. It upholds a decent life and a 
clean moral standard, with much individual personal 
piety. But it is far too content to limit its outlook to 
its own family or church, heedless of the chaos of 
confusion and failure which lies at its very doors. It 
regards with disapproval and often with contempt this 
world of poverty with its dumb demand for aid. It is 
generous in charity, but no appeal for justice in the 
name of the forgotten poor goes forth with united voice 
from the churches of London. It is content to cultivate 
its own garden, to save its own soul. It is loth to 
identify its interests with those of its less successful 
neighbours. The challenge, " Which think ye was 



neighbour to him that fell amongst thieves ? " remains 
unaccepted. For this neglect of obvious Christian duty 
its loss is at least as great as the loss of those it 
declines to aid. It becomes more and more cut off 
from the realities to which a living religion has 
always appealed. It draws the line tight round its own 
border, and endeavours to satisfy with missions and 
gifts of money the obligation of personal service and of 
a campaign for justice to all the desolate and oppressed. 
It has remained up till now unaffected by destructive 
criticism and the changes of thought and outlook which 
have so ravaged the orthodox religions in other regions. 
But there are not wanting signs of the approach of the 
disturbance. It has still to pass through a time of trial 
in which it will be tested to its foundations. Material- 
ism, the lust for pleasure, the modern impatience with a 
definite creed, are slowly creeping into this vigorous 
suburban area ; and the negative assertions of science 
and biblical criticism are creating centres of local 
disquietude. If the prevailing type of religion largely 
withers before such forces as these, it will be because it 
has set itself apart in comfort, content with a personal 
creed of salvation; because it has felt no passionate 
impulse to assert a common fellowship with the less 
fortunate who are lying at its doors no call to 
right the wrongs which, in the words of a modern 
reformer, " cry continually into the ears of the Lord 
God of Sabaoth." 

We have enough facts, I think, to justify us in the 
statement that the religious life of England at the dawn 
of the century occupies a quite unparalleled position 
amid that of the nations of Western Europe. In the 
case of all other countries, religion has been practically 
abandoned by the rich and successful, and is still 



grasped with tenacity and devotion by the masses of the 
poor. In the cities, indeed, amongst the male popula- 
tions of the working classes, the historical faiths of 
Christianity have heen replaced to a large extent by the 
newer creed of Socialism. But Socialism, with its 
sense of fellowship, its demand for the merging of the 
individual life in the success of the cause, its uplifting 
of an ideal condition of justice, and its effort towards a 
day of better things, in many ways provides a back- 
ground to life and the vision of a larger horizon. 
But in England exactly the reverse conditions prevail. 
The claims of religion are still acknowledged by 
the rich and governing classes. They are inoperative 
amongst the lives of the poor. No dreams of a reno- 
vated society have entered the chambers left empty by 
their absence. Few can doubt that in this contrast 
ours is the greater loss. Religion to the rich is a by- 
product a luxury or a plaything. Religion to the poor 
is an essential ingredient of lives at the best stunted 
and confined, oppressed by the perplexities of existence 
and limited by the day's toil or the evening's pleasure. 

It is not an encouraging picture which is finally 
stamped upon the mind in the investigation of human 
life in London. It is a vision of vast and shadowy 
multitudes of human beings driven by some blind 
impulse to the struggle for material comfort and the 
needs of a day. Happiness is there, family affection, 
the play of children, even ambition and a high moral 
standard. But it is the life of a day with a narrowed 
outlook. There is light to work by, but no clear radiance 
of dawn or sunset. At the end comes nightfall, with 
no vision beyond. Vague hope of a better time for the 
children seems rarely to develop into a conscious effort 
after the attainment of a new social order. Vague 



acknowledgment of a phantom and tenuous life beyond 
the grave is the sole representative of that hunger for 
immortality which in every age has refused to acquiesce 
in the visible ruin of death. Those who have lived with 
and learnt to love its labouring peoples, with their in- 
domitable cheerfulness, pluck, and endurance, will be 
the first to affirm that their predominant need is the 
sense of a larger life, without which human existence is 
as that of the gnat or the midge ; an uplifting of the 
material surroundings to show, if but for a moment, an 
encompassing spiritual horizon ; and an ideal cause 
able to illuminate even the scene of contemporary 
failure with a kind of glory 


It is interesting to note how, in the discussion of 
remedies for the ineffectiveness of religion in modern 
England, almost all critics plunge straightway into the 
question of machinery. The worship of machinery, 
as Matthew Arnold continually asserted, is a national 
characteristic of Englishmen. And each observer 
appears to hold that if that particular section of the 
machine in which he can detect a flaw could be repaired, 
or if a particularly up-to-date invention replaced some 
antiquated adjustment, the machinery of the Churches 
would once again grind out religious enthusiasm. With 
one it is the edifice. He deplores the cold, Gothic 
building, repellent to the poor. He would substitute 
large lighted halls of the remarkable and dignified style 
characteristic of the later nineteenth century, with plenty 
of carpets, paint, and colour. With another it is the 
edifices themselves. Let the leaders of religion come 
out into the street, he holds, and the problem is solved. 



With one again it is the service, antiquated, unintelli- 
gible to the vulgar. Collect a band, he urges, sing the 
" Holy City " and other moving modern melodies, weave 
into your prayers allusions to politics and incidents of 
the day. With another it is the sermon ; the minister 
is too cold, or speaks with stammering tongue. Let us 
place a great preacher in every pulpit, and the masses 
will vehemently fight for entrance to our churches. 
Some advocate, some deprecate, the methods of the 
theatre. Some would abolish pews altogether, and let 
the men stand. Some see the inevitable advance of 
religion if pews are made more comfortable. Each one 
has convinced opinions as to what "the poor" will 
come to the large hall, the small mission, the street 
corner. Few seem to care to face the question what 
"the poor" are to be offered when they come. 

All this would be very relevant if we could recognise 
large populations with real desire after religious devotion 
on the one hand, and a Church with a living message 
which can satisfy this desire on the other. The whole 
problem would then exhibit itself as a consideration of 
the method by which the one can be most effectively 
brought in contact with the other. But the conditions 
are quite otherwise. On the one hand are masses of 
people to whom the spiritual world has no meaning, 
and from whose lives the fundamental bedrock appeal 
of religion seems to have vanished. On the other are 
Churches whose faith has grown cold, and whose good 
news sounds far removed from anything approaching 
the passionate enthusiasm of earlier Christian centuries. 
Were this enthusiasm present, the problem of machinery 
would soon be solved. Preachers would be speaking 
with a conviction itself eloquent. The services would 
take upon themselves a character of infectious courage. 



The people would themselves build, as always in the 
past, edifices reflecting in the very stones the character- 
istics of their faith. Eeligion would impetuously flow 
forth from their limited spaces into the open ways. 
Until such a wind of the spirit can animate the dry 
bones of religious organisation with some such violent 
life, all conscious modifications of machinery become 
but attempts at creating a soul through the body, 
the artificial galvanising from without of an organism 
from which the inner life has fled. 

Yet, even with such imperfect message as we have, it 
is well to criticise the vessels in which it is conveyed ; 
more especially if these be but survivals of antique 
furniture, or symbols of class distinction and a dead 
faith. How far and in what particulars, we may 
profitably inquire, is the message of the Churches 
hampered by its methods of deliverance? 

First in regard to the services. Undoubtedly we are 
here suffering from the dead hand of the past. The 
morning and evening services of the Church of England, 
as normally performed, with their complicated and 
mysterious variations of canticles, prayers, and irrele- 
vant readings of Scripture, are altogether bewildering 
to those not intimately familiar with the books from 
which they are compiled. The reformers of the six- 
teenth century endeavoured to restore worship to the 
people in the vulgar tongue. Unfortunately the Refor- 
mation was in essence aristocratic, never, as the 
Reformation abroad, awakening response from the 
masses of the population. The churches passed from 
the hands of the people, who ceased to take a pride in 
them. The Church services became more and more 
an inheritance of a limited aristocracy. The longing 
for something warm, human, inspiring, contributed 



largely to create the independent bodies which in all the 
subsequent centuries have formed minor centres of wor- 
ship. I have no hesitation in saying that, for the majority 
of the poor, to-day's services are as incomprehensible 
as if still performed in the Latin tongue. The central 
service of the Roman Catholic Church, indeed, with its 
dramatic and appealing character, is far more intelligible 
even to the humblest worshipper. The Reformation 
changes provided the essentials of the Mass in the 
English Communion service, a service for dignity and 
beauty quite unparalleled. The monkish matins were 
never intended for formal parade one day in the week, 
swollen by elaborate music into intolerable dimension. 
Any one concerned with the religious life of the poor 
will welcome most heartily the increased honour paid to 
the feast of the Lord's Supper in recent years, and the 
progress towards its restoration to the central position 
of the Sunday worship. Such a change alone would, I 
believe, remove one of the chief obstacles to Church 

We may welcome also the renewed efforts after light, 
colour, and beauty ; the introduction of symbolic action, 
procession, and some elements of movement and drama 
into the drabness of our churches. Religion is inde- 
pendent of such adventitious aids, and the essentials 
must never be lost in the attractions of sensuous imagery. 
But I am sure that, in the acres of desolate hideousness 
of the streets of our working populations, all the appeals 
of sense and sound and colour should be associated 
with a worship which is to lift the minds of tired men 
and women to some other vision than that of their 
material meanness. I should like to see the churches 
of the wealthy studiously plain ; not vulgar, indeed, 
like the " up-to-date " religious edifice, a building which 



will serve as a record and a warning to future ages of 
the condition of religion in twentieth-century England ; 
but with whitewashed walls and scant decoration, that 
the worshippers may contrast this simplicity with the 
splendour of their own homes, and acknowledge one 
standard of reality in man's judgments, another in 
those of God. And I would see the churches of the 
poor rich with colour and light with great paintings on 
all the walls and the freest use of every artistic appeal 
that these also might learn from day to day that the 
monotony and meanness of the grey streets in which 
they are confined, and the grey lives to which they are 
destined, is not a destiny which was designed for them, 
nor a bondage from which they will never be freed. 

In passing from the ceremonial to the character of 
the service, we are confronted with a manifest difficulty. 
Living in a transitory time or order, and with a vision 
limited to our own settled and decent lives, much of the 
language used by men who dwelt amongst the enduring 
facts of human existence appears to us archaic and 
meaningless. " Agony and bloody sweat " ; " widows 
and orphans and all that are desolate and oppressed " ; 
"battle, murder, and sudden death"; "the hour of 
death and the day of judgment " how faint and far 
away all this seems to the rational and settled life of 
suburban London ! The difficulty, indeed, will endure 
but for a time. The persistence of comfort in a world of 
illusion has never existed but for a few generations. 
Here, if anywhere, the absence of sympathetic imagina- 
tion, and the faithlessness of the Churches to the larger 
vision, has produced an aspect of make-believe. If these 
congregations could be roused to apprehension of some- 
thing of the real world outside of Ireland or South 
Africa in the immediate tast, of Macedonia in the imme- 

289 U 


diate present, of the life of the poorest always these 
exclamations and cries of appeal would become charged 
with an awful significance, a demand urged with violence 
in the name of fear and pity for the vindication of the 
government of a righteous God. 

And as with the service, so with the sermon. I 
would not reiterate the demand for "good preaching," 
which seems to me utterly to confuse the purposes of 
the services of the Church. We meet, not for edification, 
but for worship to confess our sins, to obtain spiritual 
succour, to renew the visible guarantee of fellowship. 
Eloquence will attract everywhere, in the pulpit as in 
the market-place. But the crowds which run after a 
popular preacher, which purchase his portraits and 
finger his clothes and pry into his family life and the 
contents of his larder, seem to me somehow alien from 
the sincerest forms of religion. Yet there is no doubt 
that the patient layman has a right to appeal for better 
preaching. The pulpit in many cases is not only not an 
attractive, but is actually a repellent, force. We have 
no privilege to insist upon eloquence. But we can 
demand sincerity, the frank facing of difficulty, freedom 
from the conventional machinery of the popular exposi- 
tion of doctrine. The prevailing theology, even more 
perhaps than the prevailing liturgy, is wrapped up in 
an ancient language. The very terms are technical 
grace, justification, conversion, perseverance. They 
flow out glibly from the student who has soaked himself 
in their historical meanings ; they are Greek to the 
general. They were once living realities for which men 
fought gladly and died. They still symbolise realities, 
the permanent elements of the life-history of the soul. 
But they are wrapped around in cobwebs and the com- 
plications of a technical system, frozen into sterility. 



They have no more meaning and no more appeal to the 
audience at whom they are thrown in such profusion 
than the details of the performance of the Mosaic ritual, 
or the genealogies of the legendary heroes of the 
Hebrew Bible. We want neither edifying lessons 
drawn from the wanderings of Israel or the Book of 
Joshua; nor brilliant "word-painting" of some of the 
scenes of the Bible with a more up-to-date eloquence ; 
nor the exposition of the machinery of schemes of salva- 
tion once real from which the life has departed; but 
some message concerning the things of the spirit, 
delivered in simplicity and humility and sincerity to 
men who would fain be simple and humble and sincere. 

A special question has been aroused by the impeach- 
ment, with significant emphasis, of the methods of 
modern charity and its alliance with religion. Mr. 
Booth discovers over the whole town a persistent and 
undignified struggle between competing religious bodies; 
and in any particular choice slum area a competition, 
rising into an almost open warfare, for possession of the 
field. One half of London seems engaged in entertain- 
ing the other half with soup and bread with a view to 
its subsequent spiritual edification. Bound the city he 
finds the whole population visibly tainted by the corrupt 
influence of competitive charity : " ' Irreligion,' said 
one incumbent, ' is the result of all this bribery ; we are 
all in it, church and chapel are equally bad. It begins 
with the children ; buns to come to Sunday School, and 
so on, so that they grow up with the idea that the 
Church is simply a milch cow for tracts and charity.' " 

The typical East End, the happy hunting-ground of 
the slummer, is "overdone with religion and relief." 
In St. Luke's on Sunday afternoon "visitors from fiva 
different agencies in the buildings are found bribing the 



people to come to their meetings." In Soho, " nowhere 
is the clash of rival doctors so great as here." But 
even the far-off regions at the limits of the city tell a 
similar tale. In Deptford " the poor parts are indeed a 
regular Tom Tiddler's ground for missions, and we hear 
of one woman, busy at the wash-tuh, calling out, ' You 
are the fifth this morning.' ' In Greenwich there is 
" too much competition for the moral health of the 
people." In Woolwich the inhabitants are "fought 
over by the various religious bodies with more than 
common vivacity." Even in the new districts, whose 
development almost immediately into slum areas is one 
of the most appalling revelations of Mr. Booth's book, 
the same astonishing competition is shown. Down in 
Wandsworth "religious activity takes the shape very 
largely of missionary efforts, competing with each other, 
not without mutual recrimination." In Kilburn " there 
are four churches after every poor family," and the 
observer wonders at the strange struggle " fought over 
men's bodies for their souls." 

These competitive charities become most pernicious 
when they are definitely used to wean adherents from 
a rival faith. It is a somewhat dismal commentary 
on the nature of the forces behind the distribution 
of modern charities to find that while a particular 
mission in a neglected district fails to evoke support, 
a mission planted down to combat the influence of some 
rival Christian body never seems to lack money or 
adherents. This is especially true of the opposition to 
the new Ritualistic energies which in the past twenty 
years have swept into all the poorer quarters of London. 
" The record of the Evangelical mission," says Mr. 
Booth of one district, and a similar commentary is 
repeated all through the volumes, "is simply that of a 



struggle with the High Church for the souls and bodies 
of the children. It is dole versus dole and treat versus 
treat, and the contest openly admitted on both sides, 
while people taking the gifts with either hand explain 
how careful they must be when attending service that 
the other side knows nothing about it." " This atrocious 
system," as Mr. Booth rightly calls it, is a very dis- 
tressing revelation of the superior power of religious 
rivalry to religious charity. 

This enormous stream of charity flows down through 
the various religious agencies from the rich to the poor. 
We hear of mission funds with incomes of ten or twenty 
thousand a year ; some business-like, some not audited at 
all, or " audited in heaven." Twenty-five thousand chil- 
dren are fed in one winter by one mission ; over a million 
men receive shelter, cocoa, and bread from another ; in 
a third to all comers is a free night-refuge. Yet the 
problem of poverty is no nearer solution. Nor do the 
attempts to bring men within the reach of the Gospel 
by means of the offer of food and gifts appear to create 
permanent results. That the whole system does more 
harm than good is the verdict of those familiar with its 
results. One would think it was almost time for a 
definite and united appeal to the members of the different 
churches and the charitable rich seriously to consider 
the harm which is being done by the cruelty of their 

Other questions of machinery of the lesser importance 
are of interest. There is the failure of the Sunday 
Schools either to implant intelligible religious ideas or 
to foster a desire for spiritual communion and worship. 
There is the (as I think) deplorable theory that some 
special kind of popular "hall" is necessary for the 
development of the religion of " the poor " ; that by 



massing these into huge aggregations you may encou- 
rage their reviving energies, save the expense of too 
lavish "plant," and use your single successful evan- 
gelist to the best advantage. But the essence of the 
problem resides in the spirit which lies behind the 
machinery and its influence on the religious life of 

On the side of the working peoples this is certainly a 
period of unusual difficulty. The uprooting from the 
country and the transference to the town has caused a 
general confusion and disorder. Man has not yet 
clearly apprehended his position or appreciated its 
possibility. He has been " dumped " down in some 
casual street, unknown to his neighbours, unconnected 
with a corporate body or fellowship. He moves through 
time in a kind of confused twilight, dimly wondering 
what it all means. Material comfort and security is 
inevitably under these conditions his main interest. 
The memories of a life which is independent of the hard, 
visible boundaries become daily dimmer, as he clangs 
the hammer, or heaves merchandise, or manipulates 
continually hard, material things. I think we may 
safely affirm that this creation of a city race is in no 
small degree responsible for the present manifest failure 
of appeal of all spiritual creeds. 

But the failure is none the less considerable from the 
side of the Churches. We come from outside with our 
gospel, aliens, with alien ideas. The Anglican Church 
represents the ideas of the upper classes, of the univer- 
sities, of a vigorous life in which bodily strength, an 
appearance of knowledge, a sense of humour, occupy 
prominent places. The large Nonconformist bodies 
represent the ideals of the middle classes, the strenuous 
self-help and energy which have stamped their ideas 



upon the whole of Imperial Britain. Each lives in 
poor districts, in them, not of them. Each totally fails 
to apprehend a vision of life as reared in a mean street, 
and now confronting existence on a hazardous weekly 
wage from a hlock-dwelling or the half of a two-storied 
cottage. Our movements and inexplicable energies are 
received with a mixture of toleration and perplexity. 
We are recognised as meaning well, but our aims and 
ideals never become clearly intelligible. " What is he 
after?" "What does he get?" "What is behind it 
all ? " are questions I have heard frequently asked as 
some church has bourgeoned out into fresh and ingenious 
enterprise. Sometimes we are interpreted as pursuing 
some deep game of party politics ; sometimes as a kind 
of unofficial policemen paid by the rates and taxes: 
more often perhaps as possessed of a kind of exuberant 
energy which must somehow find relief in religious 
services and mothers' meetings. Funds from outside 
raise churches and chapels ; funds from outside provide 
clubs and material relief. We appear and we vanish. 
After a few months of this perplexing enthusiasm the 
curate or minister is called to another sphere of work, 
and disappears from the universe of those who had just, 
perhaps, commenced to realise that he possesses some 
traits of ordinary humanity. If we could only appre- 
hend how entirely baffling and irrational all this must 
appear to those who are looking out of, instead of into, 
the abyss, our surprise, I think, would be less at the 
vastness of our failure than at the magnitude even of 
our poor success. 

Connected with this divergence we must recognise 
how scantily up to the present the Churches and mis- 
sions have identified themselves with those demands of 
Labour, the deliberate attempts to strike at the roots 



of the ills and oppressions of the time, which the 
working man knows to be just. The battles of the 
past for social amelioration have been fought apart 
from, and often with the open opposition of, the larger 
religious organisations. "All the Churches are against 
me," Lord Shaftesbury notes in the course of his 
campaign for the redemption of the child-life of 
England. And the bitterest opposition to such social 
reformers as Charles Kingsley came from the official 
Christian communities. Are we better to-day than our 
fathers? Factory law, the right of combination, free 
trade, sanitary dwellings, a humane poor law these 
were slowly and painfully accomplished without the 
assistance of the Churches. The needs are as insistent 
to-day. Decent housing and a home, shorter hours of 
labour, a living wage, opportunities of life, the develop- 
ment of common interests in the municipal community 
where in such questions of fundamental justice as these 
are the united voices of the Christian community 
demanding the recognition of a universal responsibility 
in the name of the common fellowship ? Undoubtedly 
it is because a certain section of the High Church party 
have fearlessly proclaimed this social gospel of a visible 
kingdom of God that they have earned, to a degree so 
perplexing to many who deplore their doctrines, the 
respect and friendship of the leaders of labour and the 
devotion of the poor. These clergymen have no mono- 
poly of devoted work, nor do they give in charity more 
than the missions which endeavour to stem their in- 
fluence. The working man has no affection for 
elaborate ritual. He accepts with resignation, as part 
of an inexplicable activity, the ornaments, the proces- 
sions, and the ceremony. If they processioned round 
their churches standing on their heads, he would con- 


front the performance with the same toleration. But 
they have gone down and lived amongst the people ; 
they have proclaimed an intelligible gospel of Christian 
Socialism ; demanding not " charity," but "justice." 
The campaign has brought upon them a storm of 
obloquy from the world of orthodox religion. It has 
earned them the affection of the poor. Such a life as 
that of Father Mackonoche, or Father Lowder, or, in 
recent times, Father Dolling, with his continual appeal 
for "a chance" for "my people," has struck the 
popular imagination and evoked a pathetic gratitude. 
I am aware that this social message is not the whole 
gospel, not perhaps the most important part of the 
Christian message. But it is far the hardest part to 
get uttered, and it is the message which the times 
imperatively demand. The cry for justice provokes a 
bitter indignation in quarters where the plea for charity 
evokes a ready response. It is not unnatural that many 
successful enterprises doing much good work should 
hesitate to alienate their supporters and subscribers 
with the revolutionary teachings of the New Testament. 
But I am entirely convinced that no message which does 
not contain as an integral and essential part of its pro- 
clamation this effort towards a visible social salvation 
will fall upon any but deaf ears amongst the working 
populations of our great cities. 

Professing Christians, it has been a little cynically 
asserted, are the chief obstacles to the spread of 
Christianity in England. Those outside the Church 
are continually confronting the charters of our creed 
and the weekly profession of our intentions with the 
dull and uninspired acquiescence of our daily lives. 
Small wonder that they conclude on the whole that 
they cannot understand what we are after, and that 



what they can understand they don't admire. They see 
us as eager and tenacious of social and monetary success 
as those who make no profession of unworldliness. They 
note our great charities, but they note an equal if not 
greater charity in the unbeliever ; in such a class as, 
for example, the players of a theatre, which many 
profess to despise. In many quarters the advice has 
been traditional amongst the workmen to avoid a 
"Christian" employer. They discern us kindling into 
occasional spasmodic violence, not at social wrong or 
the enormous suffering of the world, but when we are 
accusing some particular Church of attempting to over- 
reach the others in the distribution of public funds. 
They find us noisily advertising our own wares and 
proclaiming the shoddiness of our neighbours ; devoting 
at least as much energy to the undermining of their 
efforts as to the establishment of our own. They note 
large numbers of actively professing Christians who 
manifest no obvious fruits of the spirit; who are 
querulous or exacting masters or mistresses, whose 
lives pass in a cold routine of self-centred business ; 
alien altogether from that eager and passionate enthu- 
siasm of humanity to which St. Paul affixed the great 
name of charity. The verdict may be superficial it 
neglects, and unfairly neglects, the other side of the 
picture ; but that it is a verdict endorsed explicitly and 
implicitly by a vast proportion of the population of 
London, I have no doubt whatever. 

Eeligion has rejoiced in the clear knowledge of God 
and forgotten the fellowship of man. And the punish- 
ment has been, not the overthrow of its outward 
prosperity, but the slow withdrawal of that revelation 
of which it seemed to possess so secure a certainty. 
So that now we walk for the most part blindly, in the 



twilight, with no clear vision of a spiritual world and 
an unseen Father. It may be that the way hack to the 
unclouded height will be found through the humble and 
deliberate search after that fellowship which has been 
offended and denied. Confronted with records of the 
religion of t London in this time of tranquillity, I 
can imagine no more sensational discovery than 
the first message of the Christian teaching and its 
judgment of the life of the day. Teaching so familiar 
as to become meaningless may assume a new signifi- 
cance. The feast to which first are to be called the 
friendless and poor ; the " Inasmuch " with its triumph 
and its mysterious warning ; the strange and solitary 
revelation of future judgment for a rich man who lived 
happily with want and misery lying unnoticed at his 
doors ; the woes pronounced on the complacent orthodox 
religions, so entirely convinced that they are fulfilling 
every jot and tittle of the law ; these have a meaning 
for Christianity in England at the dawn of the twentieth 
century. Assuredly it is as well that the old gospel 
should be given a trial before we proclaim the necessity 
for a new. 

Men need never despair of the future of religion. 
Humanity, as a great philosopher affirmed, is not des- 
tined permanently to inhabit ruins. A world which is 
forgetting God does not involve a God who is forgetting 
the world. The movement of new spiritual advance 
may arise from without, not from within the Church ; as 
so many of the great restorative movements of the past 
generation, whose divine origin and guidance were un- 
recognised by the members of the organised Christian 
community. We may be very confident that the time 
of frost and present cold will break up before the 
warmth of another spring. The Church by neglect of 



its election and high calling may prolong the misery and 
increase the confusion of time. But no human wilfulness 
or weakness can for ever delay the restitution of all 
things and the triumph of the end. A new dawn will 
one day illuminate the vastness and desolation of the 
city. Each solitary life of its millions, perishing, as 
it seems, unheeded and alone, is destined at last to 
find the purpose of its being in union with the Infinite, 
alike its origin and its goal. 



' The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks : 
The long day wanes : the slow moon climbs : the deep 
Moans round with many voices. 1 ' 



A WRITER, once complained of Charles Kingsley, 
that he wrote as if always anticipating the 
happening of something tremendous ahout the middle 
of next week. The quotation is a judgment, less of 
the excitement of the author than of the insensibility 
of the critic. For, throughout the age in which 
Kingsley lived, something tremendous always did 
happen in the middle of next week. The spectator, 
astonished or indifferent, confronted one of the greatest 
of all historical upheavals of the foundations of the 
mind of man. The Victorian Age, which now, alike 
in its sobriety and its sanguine dreams, stands so 
remote in the background of the memory of those who 
are living in an alien time, will be stamped in the 
record of the future as an age of hurrying change. In 
many respects that change has resulted in a profounder 
transformation than had been effected by all the pre- 
ceding centuries. The gulf is greater between the 
England of to-day and the England which, in its 
secure and tranquil life, accepted without emotion the 
death of the last of the Georgian Kings, than between 
that England and the spacious days of Elizabeth, or 
the coming of Augustine with a new faith from over the 
sea. Eighty years ago England was a quiet community, 
chiefly agriculturist, scattered over a little island. The 



traveller journeyed to Edinburgh or to Rome by the 
same methods of progress as those which had served 
the messengers of the Conqueror. The peasant flung 
his seed into the soil, and hoped for the direction of the 
forces of Nature, the rain and kindly sun, towards the 
attainment of the harvest, as at any day through all 
the centuries. The generations of the common people 
gathered for petition or praise, accepting the unchal- 
lenged announcement that the visible ruin of death was 
but a prelude to an awful judgment ; when all the actual 
deeds done in the flesh would be brought to account ; 
and the books set and the seals broken and the verdict 
proclaimed, which should decide the fate of the poor, 
pitiful human soul throughout unending time. 

The age which has just gone by, with all its 
meannesses and heroisms, its periods of great passion 
and intervening tranquillities, has exhibited the 
passing of this earlier England. And now, those 
who anywhere attempt to penetrate beneath the 
surface, with all its humour and glitter and material 
opulence, realise that they are estimating forces and 
equilibriums in a new nation. In the earlier period 
such changes as were accomplished were visible and 
open ; there were manifest tremors and violence in the 
world of politics and religion, controversies through the 
fabric of organic society. So Chartist Agitations, 
Oxford Movements, Anti-Corn Law Leagues, Liberal 
Aggressions, Evolution and " the New Reformation," 
with the noise of the fall of privilege and the songs 
of triumph of the victors, proclaimed to all men that 
great events were toward. But in the later time these 
portents of change had passed away. Men's minds 
turned towards other horizons : expansion "beyond the 
sky-line " and the harvesting of their rich fortune of 



prosperity. And the sound of the great storms of the 
nineteenth century died slowly into silence, as the 
rough seas subsided into the mere ground-swell of past 
disturbance, and this again to the quiet ripple of the 
waves along the shore. Content with the present, 
convinced that enough had been done, a little wearied 
with the tempests of reform, England settled down to 

Yet to the sensitive eye this vanishing of visible up- 
heaval has in no way checked or changed the processes 
of development and decay. The thirty years of reaction 
will appear to the future as fruitful in the seeds of 
transition as the previous thirty years of progress. For 
events in the world of thought and opinion the only 
world which ultimately matters, which will inevitably 
now, or in the coming time, mould the world of material 
things in accordance with its claims do not cease to 
march forward because men have become weary of the 
effort of adjustment. Throughout this passing time 
of order forces of creation and destruction have been 
playing upon the plastic material of the minds of men. 
Outwardly, things appear settled and unchanged. The 
ancient institutions of the realm, the Constitution, the 
feudal system, the Protestant faith, the Established 
Church, stand, it would seem, even more secure than in 
that restless past when the utility of all old things was 
being roughly called in question. Yet men need to 
remember need again and again to remember that a 
nation, no more than an individual, can bid time stand 
still, and proclaim the permanence of the summer days. 
There is an irony of judgment in the spectacle of all 
those past brief periods of peace, in which a people, on 
the verge of some vast disquietude, riddled with forces 
which are hastening the upheavals of the abyss, stands 

305 X 


proud and satisfied, confident that at length it has 
attained the certainties of an afternoon, golden and 
unending. To-day, were we but as sensitive to dis- 
turbance in the world of man's profound convictions, 
as to the outward modifications of the forms of society 
in which those convictions are clothed, our ears might 
well he deafened by the noise of the crash of the 
elements, of growing and of dying worlds. 

And, whether delayed by idleness or man's natural 
fears of the violence of an unknown future, and so 
postponed again and yet again by those whose first 
demand is peace at least in their time ; sooner or later, 
without any doubt at all, the outward fabric must 
respond to the realities of the inner life. Kuins must 
collapse and be cleared away, and new dwelling places 
be constructed adequate to man's desires. To the 
eye which can scan the larger stretches of time, 
and see the end in the beginning, the process 
has been already completed before a stone has been 
disturbed. The French Revolution was accomplished 
when society laughed with Voltaire, instead of lament- 
ing, over the Church's immoralities ; and applauded 
Rousseau's proclamation, with lean, upraised claw, of 
the coming of an age of innocence and gold. And all 
the intervening time of troublous dreams, of financiers 
oppressed with a national bankruptcy, and bishops 
timidly essaying a reform of manners, and the coming of 
a new king and an age of enlightenment amid a universal 
rejoicing, were but the passing scenes in a drama whose 
fifth act had been already composed. A similar insight 
can be applied to the things of to-day. The passing of 
the first peasant, unchallenged, into the labyrinth of 
the city, his discovery there of independence and an 
adequate return for his labour, was the passing of the 



feudal system in England. The company which 
witnessed the admission of the first Dissenter into 
Parliament witnessed also, all unwittingly, the fall of 
the Established Church. And the perplexities of the 
author of " Colenso's Arithmetic " over the reconciliation 
of irreconcilable numbers in the estimates of the wander- 
ings and the fightings of the children of Israel, marked 
the close of a particular type of Protestant civilisation 
which had been dominant in England for three 

Here are three institutions built out of living forces 
into forms and systems congruous with a former 
energetic life, which now stand, to the impartial eye, 
undermined in their foundations. Each had been 
fiercely assailed during the time immediately passed ; and 
each, while the springs of an inner life remained, stood 
secure against all the forces of reason and of hatred 
which fell upon them. In the mid-century, the fury of 
the middle classes and of manufacturing England threw 
itself against the old Landed System. Cobden, after 
the freeing of trade, was already joyfully proclaiming 
" the crash of feudalism " as the completion of his 
policy. The landed interests were tense with the 
consciousness of the coming of change, and banding 
themselves together for a final, desperate, and, as most 
would have confessed, hopeless resistance. Yet the 
fifty years have passed, and, with their passing, all the 
noise of conflict. The system remains, and in practice 
almost unchallenged. Little more than thirty years 
ago, the visible end of the Established Church appeared 
but a matter of days, The destruction in Ireland had 
seemed but a prelude to a greater destruction this 
side of the sea. In the records and memoirs of the 
'seventies, while the forces of the Liberation Society 



and other assailants breathe the consciousness of 
victory, the records of the Church's leaders are full 
of mournful forebodings of an imminent and inevit- 
able destruction. Yet the kaleidoscope has changed ; 
and the noise and forecast of coming success have died 
into silence. And to-day the Liberation Society has 
become a negligeable force in politics, and all questions 
of reform or disestablishment of the national religion 
relegated to purely academic discussion. Little more 
than a generation back, again, the popular faith seemed 
tottering upon the verge of ruin. The adherents of the 
" New Reformation " were openly anticipating a renewal 
of the large upheavals of the sixteenth century. The 
astounding advance of the sciences, the examination by 
the new critical methods of the ancient Biblical nar- 
ratives, the spread of education and a more humane 
culture would leave, it was held, the popular religion as 
a mere survival of absurd and forgotten things. Yet 
the days have gone, and the visible change has not 
hastened. Protestantism stands entrenched and secure ; 
its temples increasing in number and in splendour ; its 
adherents, it would seem, confident in themselves and 
in the triumph of their cause. It is the survivors of 
the crusaders of these earlier days who now, in some 
sadness, contemplate the walls they had set themselves 
to destroy, still high and inviolate ; and who now 
wonder why all the efforts of their forces and of Time 
have thus forlornly failed. 

So these questions have drifted out of the region of 
living politics. The reformer who enters upon his 
career with arguments concerning land reform or 
religious equality is likely to be roughly reminded 
that some time has elapsed since the death of Disraeli, 
or that he is not living in the days of the Prince 



Consort. The word " Disestablishment " would produce, 
in the mind of the present-day statesman, the same 
bewildering effect as the word " delicacy " upon Matthew 
Arnold's friend. For the first time, those committed 
to the maintenance of the older order are prepared to 
relax their efforts, as they assure themselves that at 
length the danger is passed, and, for many generations, 
the victory assured. 

Yet, while the outward signs of struggle have thus 
died away, hidden and unseen forces have been effecting 
a more fatal destruction. To-day, indeed, the end is 
far more clearly assured than in all the time of the 
conflict. While the leaves were green and the sap 
flowed freely in the branches, the tempest beat down 
in vain. The tree stands now in the security of a 
quiet air. But, if the vital forces are withdrawn, and 
within the wood has turned to a little dust, all the 
fair outward seeming may hold a delusive danger: a 
breath of summer wind may ensure a ruin which could 
not be accomplished before its time by all the storms 
of winter. 

And such appears, to some at least, to be the con- 
dition to-day of ancient systems, whose stability at the 
present receives scarcely a passing challenge. 

The first, and perhaps the most far-reaching of these, 
is the English Landed System : the feudal organisation, 
with all its implications of leadership and obedience, as 
embedded in the very heart of the old life of England. 
Here is one place in which the thirty years of silence 
have effected more momentous changes than all the 
hubbub of the former time. Kents were high in the 
early 'seventies, land increasingly valuable. The 
landed interest had attained supremacy in Parliament 
for the first time in a generation. The great uprising 



of the agricultural labourer had heen successfully over- 
come ; and, with the breaking of the Union, the farmers 
were rejoicing at the battening down of the hatches 
upon the revolting slaves. The old tripartite division 
of landlord, farmer, and landless labourer might have 
appeared as something in the nature of a Providential 
order, convenient to the genius and conditions of the 
English race. 

A statesman has well said, that if the great changes 
which have fallen on the English landed interest during 
the last few decades had been essayed by legislation and 
human demands, instead of by blind and impersonal 
forces, they could only have been accomplished through 
revolution and civil war. An immense fall in prices 
has resulted in a widespread destruction. Rents and 
farmers' profits have alike diminished, in places below 
any possible continuance of the old system. The per- 
sistence of feudalism under these circumstances could 
only have been affected by two stringent provisions : the 
one, the closing of the ports of England to foreign food ; 
the other, the barricading of the entrances of all the 
cities to the agricultural labourer. With organisation 
destroyed and all hope of improvement abandoned, the 
labourer has quietly taken revenge on his masters. 
With hatches battened down, the slave has crawled out 
of the window. So that now an exodus of all the young 
and able-bodied, all who possess energy and hope and 
confidence in themselves, pours an ever-increasing flood 
from the deserted fields into the streets of the towns. 
Imagination has been struck by the dolorous case of 
Ireland, a population, it would appear, vanishing from 
its own land. Isolate rural England, and exactly the 
same problem is revealed. It is the cities alone which 
retain the influx, and keep the people of England, a 



landless people, still within the borders of their own 
land. Wages rise steadily to attract the forlorn 
remnant, land passes from arahle to pasture, from 
pasture to scanty sheep runs, or developes special 
cultivations, dependent upon nomadic labour lured 
outwards for a moment from the slums of the cities. 
But still the famine of men deepens ; and from east to 
west the cry goes up, that what is left is scarce worth 
retaining, that the departure of the present generation 
will witness the end of an age. 

Here is the change at the silent basis, that assiduous 
and docile stratum of serf labour upon which the whole 
complex structure was reared. A change no- less pro- 
found has been effected, meanwhile, around the summit. 
The structure is being replaced, piece by piece, by other 
material ; until, at the end, without visible collapse, the 
whole thing has become transformed. The old country 
gentleman, the type of the lesser landed aristocracy of 
England, is already becoming a thing of the past. On 
the one hand has come the blow of the fall in land 
values. On the other, an increasing comfort and 
extravagance of society has stimulated a more rapid 
squandering of fortune. He is vanishing from Parlia- 
ment. His voice is no longer potent in the councils of 
his party. His place is being taken by the men of the 
new wealth rich brewers, financiers, a Rutherfoord 
Harris or a Harry Marks. He is vanishing also from 
the land of his inheritance. One day his house and 
lands are sold to one of the new rich, desirous of 
establishing a position and founding a family ; and he 
has passed from the horizon of those who regretfully, or 
with bitter memories, are compelled to own allegiance 
to another master. The larger estates, indeed, still 
remain for the most part secure. The American 



marriages, the gold-fields of South Africa, the harvest 
of the increasing ground rents of the cities, have here 
prevented the crumbling of the whole concern into 
ruin. But although some kind of material prosperity 
is thus secured, and round the great houses a race of 
dependants can still be reared, and the occupations 
of game-preserving or gardening or the repairing of 
motors replace the direct cultivation of the soil, yet the 
spirit of the old cannot be transformed to the exotic life 
of the new. The country house, instead of being a 
centre of local interest, is now an appendage of the 
capital. A tiny piece of London is transferred in the 
late summer and autumn to a more salubrious air and 
the adjacency of the coverts. Rural England appears 
as slowly passing into gardens and shooting grounds, 
with intervening tracts of sparse grass-lands, committed 
to the rearing of cattle and of pheasants, rather than of 
men. Fifty years ago, one class of reformer could still, 
without absurdity, find the solution of social discontent 
in a revived feudalism. A Carlyle or a Ruskin would 
passionately plead with the gentlemen of England to 
take up the burden of government committed to a 
landed aristocracy. What observer of the England of 
to-day would have the hardihood to proclaim a similar 
message ? Frenzied efforts of sectional influences 
attempt to deal with the special hurt that grips them. 
The farmer demands Protection and such impossible 
follies. The landlord seeks grants-in-aid in relief of the 
rates. The country clergyman laments the vanishing 
of nearly half his income in a generation. The friends 
of the labourer desire more and better cottages, or a 
modified educational system, or the music-hall entertain- 
ment, as alone able to keep him contented in his 
position. They are one and all blind to the fact that 



they are confronting, not a series of special discontents, 
but a whole dying order. Changes, which they can 
neither comprehend nor control, are creating an Eng- 
land alien from the England which they have ever 

The change could be accepted with tolerance, and 
even with some humour, but for the fact that the ruins 
and the playgrounds cumber the ground, and forbid the 
creation of the new order. The new millionaires might 
play at patronage, the model village be spread out for 
the delight of the town visitor, the farms and fields 
crumble into picturesque decay, were it not that the 
elimination of any free and healthy country-bred life 
means the loss of elements of stability and human well- 
being vital to the future of the race. The land available 
is limited : and the effort demanded for the creation 
either of a scientific agriculture on a large scale, or of a 
race of free yeomen or peasant farmers, finding economic 
security in co-operation, supplementing the work of the 
fields with home industries, is effectually damped by the 
opposition, on the one hand, of those who know not that 
their day is over, on the other of those entirely convinced 
that their day has come. So that there is no active 
effort to establish a system which everywhere abroad, 
from Brittany to Bulgaria, is alone proving adequate to 
the exigencies of the newer time. To the patriot the 
spectacle is one of desolation. He knows the necessity 
of a continual stream of vigorous life to replenish the 
furnace of the cities. He recognises that that stream is 
likely to vanish through the drainage of its sources of 
supply. He is convinced also that the restoration of the 
people to their land, in which at the present they move 
as aliens, is one of the insistent needs of social advance. 
He can examine in diverse districts of England, in 



Dorset, and Hants, and Lincoln, and Worcester, solitary 
experiments which have shown conspicuous success. 
Yet he finds no interest in his schemes, no response to 
his appeal. He is beating the thin air in vain. lie- 
formers like Mr. Eider Haggard are compelled to 
confess that the whole subject is regarded as caviare 
to the general, that the man who would determine to 
thrust it forward runs the risk of being branded as 
a bore. 

Such of the land. What of the Church during the 
same tranquil time ? With the active onslaught upon 
the Establishment dying away, there have here been 
changes equally noteworthy, equally suggestive of some 
future explosive action. Briefly, it may be said that 
these changes have developed two deep-flowing and 
diverse currents. While the clergy, as a whole, and 
the more militant laity, have been drifting towards a 
Catholic position, the great bulk of the laity, faithful 
and unfaithful, have remained Protestant or indifferent. 
This statement does not, indeed, imply an endorsement 
of the follies of those who see a vast " Romanising " 
conspiracy amongst the bishops and clergy, or who 
contemplate with wrathful impotence the announcement 
of a dogma, or the elaboration of a ritual, which they 
hold to be puerile, dangerous, or foreign. Extremists 
must always accompany any large movement of spiritual 
assertion, and always scandalise those who demand, first 
of all, sobriety and adherence to the orthodox ways. It 
is not a "Romanising" but a "Catholic" revival, which 
the student of religions will emphasise. The attempt is 
deliberate to emphasise the Catholic elements in the 
compromise of the sixteenth century, and all those par- 
ticular conceptions of religious life which gather round 



the real existence of a visible Church. On the one side, 
now, are the Catholic assertions. The Church is seen 
as a definite organism with a divinely constituted 
ministry. The Sacraments appear as channels of a 
supernatural life. Symbolism is welcomed as the ex- 
pression of a deliberate ritual of worship. There is 
insistence upon a disciplined life ; with the observance 
of seasons and times ; the setting forth of an austerity, 
a feiTour of devotion, a humility, courses of self-examina- 
tion, as the way towards the perfect life. On the other, 
is the opinion of the vast bulk of present public opinion ; 
to which the Church and its ministers are matters of 
very human construction, of no particular authority or 
veneration ; and the Sacraments at most pleasant 
memorial ceremonies ; and ritual is absurd ; and 
times of abstinence or special devotion entirely re- 
pugnant ; and the highest aim of religion the setting 
forth of a sober and not too exaggerated piety, sweeten- 
ing the struggle of the life of the day. Here is an 
antinomy which no legislation can reconcile. The hope, 
still stoutly maintained by a few forlorn fighters, that it 
will be possible by special legislation, Church Discipline 
Bills and the like, either to purge the Church of England 
of all its Catholic elements, or to reduce these by threats 
and persecutions to a decent Protestantism, shows a 
pathetic ignorance of the actual possibilities of the 
future. Could some such shattering decision be obtained 
by law, or embodied in legislation, as that which has 
recently stripped half its endowments from the United 
Free Church of Scotland, and the Catholic position be 
declared untenable within the Establishment, without 
any doubt at all those thus dispossessed would go forth 
contentedly into the wilderness ; and the remnant would 
find itself in a position somewhat parallel to the " Wee 



Kirk," with large endowments and no ministers to enjoy 
them. No one can study the position of the movement 
which its opponents delight to call " the Catholic re- 
action," without being conscious of the existence of a 
vigorous life. Its congregations are large and enthu- 
siastic. Its churches, many recently built in slum or 
suburb, are erected and maintained largely by present- 
day contributions. Most of the vital force of religion, as 
at present manifest in the Church of England, the effort 
towards social regeneration, the militant combat against 
unbelief, has enrolled under its banners. Few sights 
are at once more ludicrous and more pathetic, than the 
efforts of the faithful ladies and laymen to stem the tide. 
The appeals in bulky correspondence in the Times, the 
description of enormities seen in some village church, 
the money so freely expended upon "Protestant" 
defence, the rich livings awaiting the skilled advocate 
of the orthodox belief, all fail ; because lacking in that 
one element of spiritual ardour and enthusiasm and con- 
fidence in its cause, which neither indignation can 
kindle nor money buy. 

Beyond this fundamental and dangerous divergence, 
time has brought other changes. The old position of 
the Church as an accepted element of a social order, the 
traditional attitude of the clergyman in the fabric of the 
country life, is passing with that order's decline. The 
clergy have lost heavily by the fall of the tithe and of 
land values ; and their poverty now presents a separate 
and importunate problem. The layman offers a steady 
and successful resistance to any suggestion that he shall 
take upon himself the burden of their support. The 
supply of clergy actually decreases, despite the enormous 
increase of population. Attendance at the Church's 
worship seems likewise to exhibit a steady decline. 



Thought has driven far beyond the boundaries of the 
old formularies and historic creeds. To the men of the 
twentieth century the assertions and warnings of the 
mediaeval age sound strangely remote and incongruous. 
At the same time, the actual present relationship of 
the Church to the legislature of the nation is becoming 
more and more conspicuously impossible. It is tied 
with the bonds of a vanished past, unable either to 
reform itself or to obtain relief through legislation. In 
each specific instance, a Parliament, composed of men 
of all religions and of none, gravely or frivolously dis- 
cusses the expediency of action, in debates which are at 
once unedifying and ridiculous. Those who have de- 
liberately repudiated any connection or membership are 
the first to advocate the modifications of its theology or 
the tuning of its pulpits. The deadlock has extended 
even into the manipulations of its machinery. A tiny 
Bill for the authorisation of two new Bishoprics, for 
which the funds had been privately subscribed, was 
lengthily discussed, bitterly opposed, and only carried, 
after years of delay, by the definite determination of the 
Government to push it through at any cost. Nor is it 
possible to see how, without the fortunate accident of a 
Prime Minister unusually concerned with the Church's 
welfare, it would be possible for such a Bill to be ever 
carried again. No future Ministry, it will be safe to 
say, whether Protectionist or Eadical, will be much 
concerned in occupying time or arousing resistance with 
minor measures of Church organisation. Beyond is the 
universal chaos of opinion amongst those who can at 
once appeal to, and refuse to be bound by, formularies 
stereotyped into uniformity three centuries ago. Each 
particular reformer sets forth his gospel, and challenges 
his opponents either themselves to fall back upon the 



position from which he has diverged, or to bring his 
orthodoxy to the test and judgment of the paralysed 
secular arm. 

The situation has hecome, in these latter years, 
manifestly impossible. A movement has arisen within 
the boundaries of the Church, and obtained allegiance 
from all parties, towards the forwarding of an internal 
reform. But, in its actual progress, the movement 
seems drifting farther and farther away from an appre- 
hension of the hard realities of the situation. The effort 
has been directed, and rightly, towards the formation of 
some kind of National Council, a union of reformed 
Convocations, or some specially constituted Synod, to 
which may be committed the maintenance of discipline 
and adjustment of formularies, and ultimately the control 
of material endowment. But the distrust of the various 
parties of the Church, each for the other, is so profound, 
that the preliminary difficulty has not yet been solved of 
the constitution of such a Council, and the qualification 
of the body which its members shall be authorised to 
represent. The States-General once called together, it 
is feared, movement must of necessity originate : from 
Council to National Assembly, from Assembly to Con- 
vention, and an ecclesiastical Reign of Terror. The 
one party, therefore, more and more distrustful of the 
religion of the average complacent citizen, has demanded 
sometimes that the franchise shall be limited to those 
confirmed, who have the right to communicate; more fre- 
quently, perhaps, to those who actually communicate with 
some assiduity. The faith which believes that the State 
will ever again incorporate in statutory definition a body 
whose qualifications shall be that each " shall communi- 
cate at the least three times in the year, of which Easter 
to be one," is only surpassed in its naive simplicity by 



the faith that, to a body so constituted, will be handed 
over the goodwill and fabrics and endowments of the 
National Church of England. On the other side are 
those who desire for the suffrage merely the qualification 
of a ratepayer, accompanied by a refusal to " contract 
out," and deliberately to repudiate membership. Inheri- 
tors, though unknowingly, of the traditions of Hooker 
and of Arnold, these discern the Church as a reflection 
in another aspect, a more humane and spiritual aspect, 
of the activities of the State, the whole constituted 
people. They are prepared, in conformity with such an 
ideal, to carry through large modifications. They would 
subdue the defiant doctrines to the requirements of 
modern thought. They would modify the moral law of 
the Church such as the law concerning divorce and 
marriage into harmony with the slow moving changes 
of the main stream of the national morality. They 
would strive to include certainly all Christian, perhaps 
all theistic or ethical, bodies in this national body. 
They are impatient of subtle theological divisions which 
separate sect from sect, and set them thundering each 
against the other. They desire to work towards an 
" undenominational " religion of a cheerful and not 
too exacting character, which shall emphasise the 
more distinctively British virtues, provide the emotional 
satisfaction of a simple spiritual worship, conduct the 
work of charity, and maintain missions and the standard 
of morality and right reverence for the accepted order, 
amongst the working classes and the poor. 

The one party emphasises the adjective " National" ; 
the other the substantive " Church." The obstacle to 
the one change is the passive resistance of the laity ; 
to the other, the active resistance of the clergy. Yet 
it seems difficult to see how movement can be long 



delayed, and how movement can proceed upon any 
except upon one of these two lines. Upon which of 
these the choice ultimately falls, depends the character 
of [that Church's future. The paths steadily diverge 
from the present point of junction. If the first prove 
triumphant, one can picture the Church of the future, a 
separated body in doctrine and discipline and, ultimately, 
undoubtedly in moral standard ; becoming more and 
more alien from the main stream of progressing opinion. 
With some endowment assured, and a great stimulus of 
ardour and enthusiasm amongst its members, it is safe 
to prophesy conspicuous activity and devotion, a rising 
standard of life and obligation. One can discern a body 
raising always a banner in open defiance of the newer 
changes in moral law, and gathering round it as a centre 
all the re-actions from the hurried progress of things, 
all picturesque rallies towards the worship of an older 
time, all to whom the lethargy of the decent and the 
ignobly decent, and the severe technical outlook of a 
scientific world, are remote and hostile. Ultimately, 
no doubt, though only perhaps after centuries and 
through change, both on the one side or the other, 
some kind of working union can be prophesied between 
this isolated Church on the one hand and the Church 
which at present centres in Rome on the other ; both 
fighting a battle for preservation in the midst of a 
civilisation entering upon that " positive " stage which 
is the hall-mark of old age and coming death. Such 
is the anticipation of that most courageous and in- 
dividual of all social prophets, Mr. H. G. Wells ; who 
sees in the "New Republic" the Catholic or Roman 
Catholic the sole form of Christianity surviving, gather- 
ing round it all the ardours and devotions which 
still maintain a condition of revolt against the 



furious energies and purposes of the new scientific 

There is, however, an equally probable alternative. 
" The nation looked at from the secular side is the 
State," wrote Bishop Creighton, " looked at from the 
religious side, it is the Church ; and separation between 
the two is impossible." Development upon these other 
lines would herald a process of adjustment of the 
Church's formularies and discipline, through violent 
and bitter change, to the common sense of the time. 
One can foresee the vanishing of much that appears 
outworn. Ancient prayers and articles would be thrown 
over as out of date. Creeds would be modified towards 
a studied vagueness. Petition would be adjusted 
towards conceptions of a reign of law in nature, and a 
time of security in society. Such changes might in- 
volve cataclysms. But there is no cataclysm (even to 
a clean sweep of the Bench of Bishops, or the driving 
out of a half or a third of the clergy from their livings) 
to which the Church's past history is unable to afford a 
parallel. It is possible to picture a Church of the future 
after the work of "adjustment" had been completed. It 
would be a Church in close touch with the stream of domi- 
nant opinion, with a flexible adaptation to changing con- 
ditions. It would still be playing a vital part in all 
" national " celebrations, with a chaplain for the prayers 
of Parliament and the pomp of Coronation for King or 
President. One sees a progress towards a compre- 
hensive vagueness, with a diffused philanthropy and 
humanitarian sentiment, rather than any high spiritual 
ardour. It would be much occupied in distribution of 
alms, and communications from the nation of the 
wealthy to the differentiated nation of the poor. 
There would seem, under these conditions, no inherent 

321 T 


obstacle to the fulfilment of the genial visions of James 
Mill : with a Church " without dogmas or ceremonies," 
and the clergy employed to give lectures on ethics, 
botany, political economy, and so forth, besides holding 
Sunday meetings, with decent dances, specially invented, 
and "social meals," with tea and coffee substituted for 
bread and wine. Nor would moral adjustments fail to 
follow the intellectual ; and the vision of " the sleeper " 
in the popular novel, waking in the days to come, and 
cheered by conversation with " one of the subsidiary 
wives of the Bishop of London," might not prove 
entirely a fantastic dream. 

For if there is one thing manifest in the world of 
thought to-day in England, it is the steady if silent 
collapse of the foundations of the ancient national faith. 
The intellectual position once changed, it is but a 
matter of time for the actions and limitations to collapse 
also. The new morality is already commencing to 
regard as things trivial or tedious those survivals 
which have lost intelligible meaning, and are merely 
maintained by the inertia of the resistance of the 
average man to disturbance. Many years ago 
Matthew Arnold had excited a violent hatred by 
the candour of his diagnosis. "Its organisations," 
he asserted of the popular Protestantism, "strong and 
active as they look, are touched with the finger of 
death ; its fundamental ideas, sounding forth still every 
week from thousands of pulpits, have in them no 
sympathy and no power for the progressive thought of 
humanity." Ardent desire for its fulfilment doubtless 
had ante-dated the prophecy. The leisured and wealthy 
classes were to shed their conventional religion as a 
garment at one end of the scale. At the other, the 



great mass of the "populace" were to develop into 
aggressive and self-conscious life, without even having 
entered the universe of religious experience. But, 
between these, the successful and expanding middle 
classes were for many decades to dominate the national 
life and policy, and impart to that life their peculiar 
flavour and tone, and establish their definite type of 
Puritan civilisation; so that one extremity of society 
would grow ashamed of violation of its moral mandates, 
the other afraid. That great tradition of austerity and 
reticence which, alarmed at the demand for fuller 
existence and the large curiosity of the Elizabethan 
Age, had " entered the prison of Puritanism and had 
the key turned upon its spirit for two hundred years," 
emerged at last with the vigour of the stored- up 
energies of generations of clean living. It found its 
qualities triumphant in a commercial age. Never did 
the prospects of Protestantism look fairer than in the 
age in which Arnold was announcing its dissolution. 
It had torn its way into the Universities and public 
services, from which it had been excluded. It had 
re-entered, it had in a sense absorbed, the main current 
of the national life. It had woven into the very fabric 
of the national system of Education a religious teaching 
entirely acceptable to its desires. 

But, in essentials, we can now see that Arnold was 
right. In the triumph lay the seeds of decay. The 
coming out into the open day had meant of necessity 
the exposure to the disintegrating forces of the rain and 
sun. The old religion, with its affirmations and denials, 
of Protestant and of Puritan England the civilisation 
definitely dependent upon that particular outlook on the 
world is to-day visibly dissolving. Within a generation 
its dominant doctrines have been quietly cast aside. 


Predestination and Calvinism, in their unflinching 
forms, have practically gone. Even in Scotland, with 
its relentless logic, the true home of its birth, they are 
repudiated by the main stream of the Presbyterian 
tradition. In England they seek refuge in the remoter 
Christian sects. And the new Calvinism of the natural 
sciences, with its blind forces and destinies, more in- 
exorable and terrible even than the ancient conception 
of an inflexible directing Will, has not yet entered into 
the schemes of any of the popular religions. Gone, 
also, is that doctrine of Everlasting Punishment in a 
lake of material fire, to which are immediately com- 
mitted at the moment of death all those who have not 
accepted the scheme of salvation. A few years ago, 
the most typical figure of English Protestantism, Mr. 
Charles Spurgeon, could thus picture to his terrified 
audience the "Resurrection of the Dead": 

" When thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone : 
that will be a hell for it ; but at the day of judgment 
thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have 
twin-hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood and thy 
body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that 
which we have on earth, thy body will lie asbestos-like, 
for ever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of 
pain to travel on, every nerve-string on which the devil 
shall for ever play his diabolical tune of hell's unutterable 

From what representative Nonconformist pulpit could 
a similar statement be put forth to-day ? The change 
has come, and with a rush, within a lifetime. 

And going or gone, also, before the labours of a per- 
sistent critical method, is that belief in a literal and 
verbal inspiration of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, 
which invested with the glamour of a Divine origin 



every tangled genealogy ; and accepted esoteric meaning 
for every unedifying incident ; and discerned the Mosaic 
code as originating in the writings of the finger of God 
upon tables of stone, amid the thunders and lightnings 
of Mount Sinai. 

With these recognised changes within the fold have 
gone larger changes amongst those outside, who never 
accepted with whole-hearted conviction the affirmations 
of the faithful. To these the abandonment of Calvinism 
has meant the practical repudiation of any directing will 
in human affairs. The repudiation of the fear of Hell 
has meant the fading of any conception of retribution 
for the sins done in the flesh the future apprehended 
as an unending sleep, or the asphodel and lilies of a 
good-tempered God. And the work of criticism has 
meant the destruction of all authority in the Hebraic 
or Christian scheme of life, a rejection of all evidence 
of a special Divine revelation. The conception of sin 
has changed from that of "a monster to be mused 
on" into "an impotence to be got rid of"; and 
effort towards the increase of enjoyment, personal or 
general, is set forth as the foundation of the new ethical 

These changes are being assisted by the natural 
development inherent in an age of security and 
triumphant material success. The menace of social 
upheavals, ruin, and the breaking up of laws, sounds 
faint and far away. In the life of the cities the 
forces which make for disturbance the larger dis- 
quietudes, Nature and the wind that blows from the 
hills, the insistent presence of the Dead are being 
effectively banished. To-day the older austerity is 
deliquescing into an increasing, if still half-timid, 



determination to throw off the ancient restraints. The 
insistence on the English Sunday of silence and 
spiritual exercises ; the whole-hearted condemnation of 
the theatre, dancing, card-playing, all literature and art 
unsteeped in reticence ; the hatred of the public-house, 
of betting and gambling ; the branding of the supreme 
viciousness of any violation of the monogamic order of 
society, or an union unblest by Church and State all 
this belongs to a vanishing England. The march of 
change is not everywhere evident. There are occasional 
rallies, and fortresses which still present an unyielding 
front to a change branded as a National Apostasy. But 
each year and each day exhibit some subtle advance, as 
one man after another realises that the sanction has 
vanished for some particular restraint, and that nothing 
is keeping him from pursuing the desirable course but 
the forces of custom and routine. 

This is not to say, indeed, that the whole fabric of 
the Protestant religion is immediately collapsing in 
England ; or that the great Nonconformist bodies, in 
which that Protestantism is most conspicuously vocal, 
are about to wither into nothingness. It is to say, on 
the one hand, that an increasing population is developing, 
to whom the doctrines of Protestantism are unbelievable, 
and the practical worship that is dependent upon these 
doctrines repugnant; on the other, that, within those 
bodies themselves, there is fermenting a large process of 
change. There will be " Independents " and " Bap- 
tists" and "Methodists" at the close of the century. 
But the Methodism will not be that of Mr. Hugh Price 
Hughes, nor the Independence that of Dr. Binney, nor 
theBaptist's faith that of Mr. Charles Spurgeon. Itwould 
be foolish to assert that all is loss or all is gain in this 



momentous change. There is, indeed, a liberation from 
restraint, an advance towards freedom, combined with a 
wider culture and curiosity, and a general mellowing 
and humanising of individual life. But there is a loss 
also in the dying away of a contempt for pleasure, and 
a consciousness of purpose in the world, and of the 
infinite difference between good and evil, and the in- 
finite value of the human soul. Mr. Burden, in Mr. 
Belloc's story, the sturdy ironmonger of Upper Norwood, 
has been the butt of all the sharp wits and satires of the 
age. He is at least a more reputable figure than his 
son, Cosmo, with his weak thirst for ineffectual plea- 
sure, or Mr. Barnett and Lord Benthorpe and Mr. 
Harbury, with their cant of an expanding Empire and 
Imperial destinies, and their inner cheerlessness and 

Such are some of the things now in England in peril 
of change the Landed System, the Established Church, 
the Popular Religion. There is opportunity for a states- 
man who would rightly apprehend the situation, and 
definitely interpret to the nation the danger of the 
collapse of ruins. Yet, confronting present affairs and 
the temper of the people, one can but emphasise some- 
thing of the almost forlorn heroism of the enterprise. 
The land implicates a thousand vested interests, crying 
if assailed. The falling feudalism is backed by the 
wealth of the newer commerce. The increasing cities 
care nothing for the ruin of rural England. In the 
country, every day weakens the forces essential to 
reform. Twenty or fifteen years ago, those vanishing 
villages could still be kindled by some intelligible hope. 
The " Land for the People " was a popular watchword, 
influential, at least, at successive elections. To-day 



another generation has fled the fields ; and written all 
over the crumbling buildings and passionless people, is 
the apathy which is content to wait for the end. From 
what unimaginable crevasses of the city labyrinths so 
runs the obvious challenge from what secluded hamlets 
removed from all the past destruction, are you going to 
lure forth the companies of stout peasants and yeomen 
with energies adequate to the England of your dreams ? 
Compared to this, the work in Ireland was child's play ; 
yet in Ireland the transformation was effected only after 
one of the fiercest fights in all history, an incredible 
suffering, an incredible devotion of a whole nation pro- 
longed through twenty years. What species of " Land 
League" or united "Nationalist" party, fighting for 
Agrarian Reform, is probable or possible in the England 
of to-day ? 

Nor is the question of the Establishment any more 
hopeful. Here is an organisation to be torn up, whose 
roots reach deep down into the basis of society. A 
thousand hazardous questions immediately arise. What 
of the future, of endowments, of fabrics, the care or 
ownership of cathedrals and village churches ? From 
what material, with what qualification, are you to 
construct the living Church that is to remain after all 
your efforts ? What again of the great Dissenting 
bodies, and their claim to represent at least a vigorous 
portion of the religious life of the nation ? What of 
adjustment of formulas and obligations, of marriage 
laws, Thirty-nine Articles, or the Apostles' or Athauasian 
Creed? Here is a task, compared to which the mere 
denouncing of the Concordat in France appears but a 
little thing; a task, indeed, which might appear only 
possible in the white hot fires of revolution. 

Yet in all these, as was said at another time in peril 


of change standing still is the one thing more im- 
possible than going forward. 

Ingenious efforts are often attempted to disentangle 
historical parallels to the present in the past, and from 
these to emphasise confidence or disquietude concerning 
the future. Writers have recounted the story of these latter 
days in England in the language of Gibbon concerning 
the dying Roman Empire. Here, also, can be found agri- 
culture declining at home, and all the people crowding 
into the capital ; fed from the corn ships of Alexandria 
or Argentina. Here, too, is the decay in the ancient 
austerities and pieties ; the sudden and intoxicating 
consciousness of a supreme greatness, of an Imperialism 
exacting tribute from the four corners of the earth ; and 
the breeding of a parasitic race of little street-bred 
people, demanding before all things food and pleasure : 
free meals and professional games and vicarious " little 
wars." The menace is not lacking also, as in the 
famous forebodings of the Koman historian, in the rise 
of shadowy and inscrutable nations, the barbarians in 
the cold North. In the East are the yellow races 
awakening from slumber. In the West is the newest- 
born child of all the hardiest of the peoples. Each may 
be able, not only through the old methods of actual 
invasion, but in the new methods of trade competition, 
to strike a fatal blow at the heart of Empire. 

Others have found a similarity between the com- 
mencement of the sixteenth and the commencement of 
the twentieth centuries in England. In the former 
as in the later day a Church, heavily weighted with 
the burden of the things of a dead past, is 
struggling towards internal reform. A new learning has 
suddenly rolled back the dim horizons and boundaries of 



thought, and opened limitless vistas. And in those 
days also, a moment's breathing space was given before 
the changes in the world of thought became translated 
into the world of action, and the new knowledge crashed 
into the chaos of the Reformation. 

Others, again, have found much that the observer 
would do well to study in comparing the England of 
to-day with the France of the years immediately pre- 
ceding the Revolution. An increasing burden of national 
expenditure, and the development of an absentee land- 
lordism, there hastened the coming of change. A kind 
of general atrophy of governing power amongst the 
governing classes had ensured the failure of the forces 
of resistance. An improvement of economic condition 
in a momentary "Age of Gold " had brought hope to 
those dim and submerged classes among which hope 
rarely comes. And, indeed, one can realise that if only 
hope hope, that most dangerous of all revolutionary 
forces were once to penetrate among the poor of the 
cities of England, some explosion of elemental forces might 
boil up beneath the thin layer of the ordered society of 
to-day, and again amid the furnace flame reveal the 
" heights and depths which are still in man." 

A deeper examination in each case will show the im- 
possibility of thus interpreting the future from the 
lessons of the past. Never before has met together that 
particular combination of forces which in any particular 
age, in their contact and interaction, are creating a new 
world. The new world of the future we confront with as 
little knowledge of its possibilities as was possessed by 
any prophet of the past. In the time immediately 
before centuries of quiet men foretold the beginnings 
of a universal desolation, the coming of the twilight 



of the gods. On the verge of vast and shattering 
cataclysms men proclaimed that never was the sky 
more serene, the continuance of security more sure. 

Examination of the actual present can but emphasise 
evidence of equilibrium disturbed. The study of the 
past can but guarantee that through rough courses or 
smooth, heedless of violence and pain, in methods 
unexpected and often through hazardous ways, equi- 
librium will be attained. 


The substance of much of this book has appeared in 
the " Contemporary Review," the "Independent Review," 
the "Commonwealth" the "Speaker," the "Pilot," 
and the " Daily News." I am indebted to the courtesy 
of the editors for permission to make use of it in this 


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